May 20th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Lorcan Finnegan | Cast: Nicolas Cage, Julian McMahon, Nic Cassim, Miranda Tapsell, Alexander Bertrand, Justin Rosniak, Rahel Romahn, Finn Little, Charlotte Maggi | Australia/Ireland, Fantasy thriller 99’

Nicolas Cage seems to be enjoying his current screen persona: a decent family man who becomes increasingly disturbed and emasculated. In Lorcan Finnegan’s latest film, a psychological buddy thriller premiering at Cannes Film Festival, Cage is a harried, ego-driven dad hellbent on revenge: Australian set-psychodramas  Long Weekend (1978) and Wake in Fright (1971) will both spring to mind in tone and intensity.

Set in beachside Australia, possibly Perth, this is a film about masculine pride and ego. But what starts as a plausible concept thriller soon drifts into much darker (more disgusting) territory and eventually grows tedious with its rather sad commentary on the male of the species.

Cage kicks off in a Lexus – hardly emblematic of success, – but that’s what it’s billed as here. His son in tow, he’s aiming to buy the house on the coast where he grew up as a killer surfer. But the locals, a pack of butch beach bums, don’t want him here. Father and son make their way down to the beach where they are confronted with the local gang of thuggish surfers, led on by Scally (Julian McMahon) who tells them to sling a hook, or a surfboard for that matter, and get the hell out of there.

Thus begins Cage’s descent into Hell. Beset by oncoming failure: his loss of face with his son, a failure to secure his dream property, and even the theft of his brogues, Cage turns his anger on the world at large – and the focus is the Bay Boys. What a pathetic sight he becomes, and in some ways we feel for him in a series of things that go impossibly awry: All these feelings of angst are reflected by the local flora and fauna: a cawing Kookaburra, a vicious scorpion, a rabid dog, the merciless sun that bakes down on the now delusional, dehydrated dad.

And his loss of self-esteem stares back at him in the negative attitudes of those around. Rather like Polanski’s character in The Tenant, he starts to doubt himself in a self-persecuting masculine meltdown. Sadly Finnegan’s finale doesn’t quite reach a satisfactory outcome, lost in mixed messages and bravado, but The Surfer is worth watching for Cage alone. @MeredithTaylor


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