Hannah Strong


The Surfer – first-look review

Nicolas Cage stars as a man who comes a cropper of a local surfer gang in Lorcan Finnigan's unsuccessful psychological thriller.

Sometimes all you need for a great film is a great premise. Lorcan Finnigan’s sophomore feature has that going for it at least: Nicolas Cage plays the titular (otherwised unnamed) surfer returning to the idyllic Australian coastal town he grew up in to purchase a beachfront house, only to discover a group of hostile surfers have taken over. “Locals only!” they yell as they chase him and his mortified teenage son (Finn Little) away from the shore. Nicolas Cage is going to have to do something about that.

Unfortunately the zany set-up and strong start with an atmospheric surf-rock score and excellent title card are among The Surfer’s few redeeming features. It should be an opportunity for Cage to deliver a classic Cage Performance, but Thomas Martin’s ambling script doesn’t give him much to work with beyond a few choice line deliveries, so we spend the first hour of the film watching Cage being bullied by beach bums who are slowly revealed to be a cult who worship at the alter of Scally (Julian McMahon), a cheery sort in a red sleeveless hoodie who makes a mint as a Jordan Petersen-esque sand-loving Svengali.

There are a few elements of intrigue, such as the local vagrant who shambles around the car park where The Surfer spends most of the film hanging out due to various setbacks, obliquely referring to a history with the surf gang that his son used to be a part of. But The Surfer shoots for lite psychedelic psychological thrills and falls short of the mark – it’s quite miserable to watch a man being repeatedly tormented with dog poo and stolen property, particularly since his reaction is one of anguish rather than anger. Rather than leading to a satisfying climax where our protagonist can enact his revenge, The Surfer peters out inelegantly, denying us the satisfaction of really seeing this bunch of dickheads get what they’re due.

It’s a film that really wants to be about hot-button issues, like toxic masculinity and gentrification, but doesn’t have anything interesting to say about them. In fact, it’s peculiar that in a film where characters harp on about their proud ties to the community, not even a passing reference is made to the actual locals in Australia – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have been persecuted for generations. Seems like a glaring omission, but as a film made by and starring outsiders, perhaps that oversight didn’t cross their minds.

Published 17 May 2024

Tags: Lorcan Finnegan Nicolas Cage The Surfer

Suggested For You


By Max Copeman

Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg become trapped in a suburban nightmare in this metaphor-laden domestic horror.


Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.