“All this over a puppy?” the Director (played by Anjelica Huston) asked John Wick in Parabellum, after assessing his kill count of assassins that spanned three movies in the John Wich franchise.
“It wasn’t just a puppy,” justified Keanu Reeves’s long-haired, stationery-happy contract killer.
And Nicolas Cage’s truffle-hunting porker in Pig wasn’t just a pig. It was his sole reminder to be human after his wife’s death: a tragedy that made Cage’s Robin Feld give up a magnificent culinary career in Portland and escape to Oregon’s woods. Time did little to soften a grizzled Feld and did a worse job in making Portland’s food giants forget the former chef’s power. But it’s in his pet pig (Eater said she was named Brandy) that he understands the simplicity of life and the futility of chasing something as fickle as societal approval.
Feld’s pig helped him find truffles for a young hotshot restaurant supplier named Amir (played by Alex Wolff) in exchange for food and pantry staples. Feld appeared to have shunned most material things like money at this point and seemed content with his pig, wooden cabin, a weekly income of groceries, and the solitary wonder of Oregon’s forest. But when masked kidnappers assault Feld to abduct his pig, all hell breaks looks within him. It makes Feld return to Portland like the prodigal son (with Amir) in tow, reuniting with both the underbelly and the warmth of the city’s food scene.
Spoiler: Feld doesn’t find the pig, and even revealed to Amir that he didn’t really need the animal to find truffles. He did it on his own by studying the wind. So, the audience and Amir wondered: why did he put in all the literal blood, sweat and tears – thanks to an underground fight club of restaurant staff that Feld offered himself up to, to get pummelled for information – if he could just get another pig?
“I love her,” Feld said.
And that’s enough.
Both Wick and Feld prove that pets aren’t just domesticated animals for companionship. They stand in for a memories long gone, and in both cases, the dog and pig are also reminders that tell their owners that they need to let go. Wick gets gifted a dog as a pre-planned present from his late wife, and the puppy becomes his last connection to her. When she is killed by a gangster’s son because Wick refused to sell his car to him, the assassin launches a bloodthirsty solo mission for revenge that brings him back to the underworld, much like how Feld was forced to return to Portland. Unlike Pig, John Wick is a whole franchise, proving that the titular character is having a tougher time accepting that loss is a part of life, granted his line of work is much more lethal than Feld’s.
Both movies carved out a unique space in Hollywood actions movies. They’re part of a genre that strangely blends action and drama with the wholesome theme of a pet almost being a family member (think Beethoven). Did people enjoy them? John Wick raked in more money with every new release in the franchise, with Parabellum grossing $326,709,727 worldwide, according to Wikipedia. Pig was a sleeper hit and critically-acclaimed, with an average Rotten Tomatoes rating of 8.2/10. It defied expectations of being a stereotypical absurd Nicolas Cage film (Cage is notorious for not turning down roles, and is Hollywood’s most-credited actor).
Pig is stunningly written. But, both Cage’s movie and John Wick can be understood with this Pig line that drives home the common theme:
“We don’t get a lot of things to really care about.”
That’s why we should pursue them when we can, and learn to make way when they leave.