As reliable and grimly enduring as an East End boozer, there will always be the gritty British crime movie.
Even after twelve months of some of the most imaginative homegrown output in recent memory, the appetite for cockneys getting into right old barneys shows no sign of abating.
And so with a sense of weary inevitability comes Piggy, a revenge thriller labouring under the hope that graphic depictions of violence are a decent substitute for characterisation or plot. It’s not devastatingly terrible, but with such a singular lack of imagination and a grisly approach to portraying murder, it’s hard to see the appeal.
Joe (former footballer Martin Compston) is a quiet loner who keeps himself to himself. When his older brother (Kill List’s Neil Maskell) is killed by a drunken gang, Joe is befriended by the enigmatic but unhinged Piggy (Paul Anderson), apparently a family friend looking to take Joe under his wing.
Using moody lighting and an under-saturated palette, first-time director Keiron Hawkes initially manages to capture the intense loneliness of city life, but stumbles before he can amount to anything meaningful. We yield instead to grisly murder after grisly murder, as Joe exacts an ugly vengeance for his brother’s death under Piggy’s mentorship, both curiously donning pig masks as they work.
It is a little baffling why our sadistic chums go about their murderous ways with snout noses. Ineffective both as a disguise and a scare tactic, they send proceedings into absurdity when the intention is sinister. If this aspect was supposed to be the film’s USP, it will surely appeal only to pig fetishists and novelty mask manufacturers.
More importantly, it’s hard to understand why the previously docile Joe decides to comply to Piggy’s ruthless violence and harder still to actually empathise with anyone – anyone at all. A big reveal at the end attempts to address this, but it’s too late – we don’t care, and the eleventh hour dash to re-frame the film as a Fight Club-esque psychological thriller is too little, too late.
It’s always encouraging to see any efforts to revive such a horribly overcrowded genre, but Piggy is not the film to do it. If it spent half as much time and money on the script as it had on the gory prosthetics, there might be something to salvage. As it is, they should have gone the whole hog and dressed the murderers up in full pig regalia – at least then, there might have been a few snorts of laughter, rather than a bag of old scratchings.