SURFER, THE

SURFER, THE

(director: Lorcan Finnegan; screenwriter: Thomas Martin; cinematographer: Radek Ladczuk; editor: Tony Cranstoun; music: François Tetaz; cast: Nicolas Cage (The Surfer), Julian McMahon (Scally), Finn Little (The Kid), Nic Cassim (The Homeless Bum), Alexander Bertrand (Pitbull), Rahel Romahn (The Estate Agent), Miranda Tapsell (The Photographer), Justin Rosniak (The Cop), Charlotte Maggi (Jenny); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Leonora Darby, James Harris, Robert Connolly, Nathan Klingher; Gramercy Park Media; 2024-Australia/USA)

“This is a role Cage can do in his sleep and I can watch in my sleep.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Irish filmmaker Lorcan Finnegan (“Vivarium”/”Foxes”) directs and Thomas Martin scripts the off-beat, low-budget, psychological thriller, a B-film set in the scenic coastal town of Lunar Bay on Australia’s south-western coast. 
 
A wealthy unnamed tourist, separated from his wife, visits the beach for a surfing vacation during Christmas with his unnamed teenage son (Finn Little). He’s the middle-aged surfer (Nicolas Cage), who wants to feel the exhilaration of riding a big wave and rekindle memories of his childhood on this very same public beach he went to as a child, and buy his childhood hilltop home that’s for sale for a million dollars (that another buyer is putting cash down for it). But the local younger bully surfers, the Bay Boys, on the pristine beach, tell him: “If you don’t live here, you don’t surf here.”


The pathetic tourist, who was born in Australia but as a child moved with his mom to California after his father drowned on this beach, lives out of his Lexus like a homeless person, that’s parked in the parking lot atop a cliff overlooking the beach. His son has enough of this craziness and splits.

The bullies steal his surf board, cell phone, watch and some of his possessions, as the cops do nothing. The surfer thereby fanatically plots on how to move down to the shore, and dreams of what it would mean for him to relocate back to his birthplace. But is visibly shaken by the beach bullies, and frustrated and angry at being rejected as an outsider.

Scally (Julian McMahon) is the polite but controlling ringleader of the bullies, who comes from a wealthy family and works a day job as a corporate raider. But even if from the same upper-class, refuses to help the surfer.

All the Cage character wants to do is surf and be treated with respect. But instead he’s humiliated as he suffers not only mentally from the torment but physically under the scorching sun.

This is a role Cage can do in his sleep and I can watch in my sleep.

It plays out as a 1970s American exploitation type of film (or, if you will, a New Wave Aussie film from that period). The director and writer said in an interview they were inspired by the American classic film “The Swimmer” (1968), starring Burt Lancaster.


Cage has a meaty role in this unsettling pic that never feels real or feeds us the reason why he stays at the beach to absorb so much abuse when he’s free to leave at any time. Maybe, in this Cage midlife crisis fantasy film, he must be extremely vulnerable before he explodes and finds a surfboard in the final act to go surfing, because that’s his acting shtick.

It played at the Cannes Film Festival.


REVIEWED ON 5/21/2024  GRADE: B