"The film has a very dark atmosphere, with a number of quite disturbing scenes, uncomfortable to watch..."
Within the past year or so a host of young and talented British filmmakers have taken to the director's chair. The likes of Paddy Considine, Joe Cornish, Richard Ayoade and Dexter Fletcher have all seen their debut productions receive much critical acclaim, giving hope and belief to fellow first-time filmmakers. However, director Kieron Hawkes may have to hope for his second movie to be a success, as Piggy is quite a way off the standard reached by those mentioned above.
Set in present day London, we follow the diffident Joe (Martin Compston), timid and reserved - a man cautious of others, always seeking the easy way out. Fortunately he has an older brother John (Neil Maskell) who looks out for him, making sure he stays out of danger,. Yet one fateful night after a disagreement in the pub, John is attacked and murdered by five merciless thugs, leaving Joe all alone, with no one to confide in, or to help protect him.
However, that is all about to change as Piggy (Paul Anderson) comes into the picture. Claiming to be an old friend of John's, Piggy vows to take over the situation and with Joe's help, plans a revengeful plot to brutally murder each and every one of John's killers. But Joe has his doubts about Piggy, and although avenging his brothers death seems the right thing to do, is an eye for an eye always the best idea?
Working against Hawkes is that his film bears one too many resemblances to Shane Meadow's classic thriller Dead Man's Shoes. Yet unfortunately for Hawkes, he doesn't appear to have that touch of intensity and fear that Meadows induces into his features. It follows a similar path to Dead Man's Shoes in that it's a revenge plot based around two brothers, yet rather than Paddy Considine's gas mask, Piggy fashions a small pig-nosed mask. I know which one I'd be more frightened of when walking down an alley after a night out.
Although in fairness the film does have a very dark atmosphere, with a number of quite disturbing scenes, uncomfortable to watch. Yet it does perhaps become too bleak, with not one stand out amiable or comical scene to counteract the harshness of Piggy's actions. Meadows always manages to intertwine his iniquity with a much-needed wit, whereas this has absolutely no let-off.
However, I appreciate how Hawkes is testing the audiences beliefs and emotions by pitting evil versus evil. John's killers are heartless monsters, but then again two wrongs don't make a right, and effectively Piggy and Joe are equally as bad as the killers themselves. Whichever side you may take you feel guilty for sympathising with anyone, or supporting anyone else. Hawkes plays with your beliefs in that respect.
Much of the fear comes through the character of Piggy, and Anderson does a relatively good job. However despite coming across as incredibly threatening and dangerous he doesn't seem psychotic enough and I think you need a steady mixture of the two to pull it off. Give that role to Considine and we have a different film altogether. As for Compston, his character is somewhat dreary and unintimidating and although that is what the part requires, we don't see enough of Joe's nasty streak to allow for his transformation to the dark side to feel realistic.
For a debut film Piggy is not a bad effort. Hawkes has certainly shown potential and has managed to create a quite dark and disquieting film, it's just a shame that the story feels as though it's been done too many times before. I also can't get my head around the 'Piggy' alter ego either. It just doesn't seem scary enough and maybe it's just me, but I kind of want to cuddle a man called Piggy.