Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 02/12/12 16:11:56

"Modest ambitions and results."
3 stars (Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2012 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: "Pig" could probably do with a name change before leaving the festival circuit. That won't make it a better movie, of course, but it deserves to sink or swim for the reasonably well-done (if not exactly remarkable) sci-fi mystery that it is rather than as something else.

The opening credits show us a man making some sort of recording, but the movie proper starts with that man (Rudolf Martin) hooded and with his hands bound in the Arizona desert. He's found by Isabel (Heather Ankeny), a young widow and single mother who lives far enough from town that she has to use a satellite phone to call the doctor (Steve Tom), who pronounces the man healthy despite his apparent total amnesia. The one clue to his identity is a slip of paper in his pocket that says "Manny Elder", and the nearest person with that name is in Los Angeles. So it's road trip time, but encounters with people claiming to be his old landlord (Keith Diamond) and a former girlfriend (Ines Dali) tell very different stories.

It may, perhaps, border on being a spoiler to say that Pig is a movie that has a gimmick in its narrative structure, although that might also fall under the category of "fair warning". As much as this set-up has potential for an interesting story told in an interesting way, writer/director Henry Barrial never quite seems to get a strong hold on it. A mystery needs to parcel out its clues and red herrings very carefully, for maximum impact, and there are long stretches in this movie where the audience may not feel that they are getting enough. Similarly, the fracturing of the narrative is under-used, not doing as much as it could to add intrigue to the situation.

And, wow, does Barrial just up and drop a huge chunk of exposition on the audience in the last act. This is where the picture's unique ideas get trotted out, but it almost feels like a completely separate short film being inserted into the movie instead of allowing them to emerge naturally. It could be worse; the audience has likely figured everything that's important out by then, so these scenes amount to unusually well-executed pseudoscience and admissions of extra convolutions. As masses of facts go, it's pretty well-presented, with the filmmakers doing a decent job of getting all those plot twists and facts in without undercutting the rapport the audience has established with the characters too much.

That rapport comes from similarly decent performances from the cast. Rudolf Martin is certainly believable in his character's confusion, if not quite empathetic enough to make the audience think, yes, this is exactly what that strange situation must be like. He's also not quite as smooth as Heather Ankeny is as Isabel; while her performance is perhaps brighter than the rest of the movie demands, it does help to create a pretty quick emotional connection with the audience. Keith Diamond and Ines Dali both do work that's good enough to sell the situation as well.

There's a bit of stumbling around a script that isn't quite as air-tight and tricky as its premise might demand; "Pig" probably won't be found superior to other movies with similar gimmicks very often. It's certainly a passable low-key sci-fi mystery, following through on its ambitions well enough to justify having them.

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