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Swimming With Sharks
Swimming with Sharks
A 1994 black comedy/drama film Swimming with Sharks has been written and directed by George Huang, a first-time filmmaker who reportedly received inspiration for the storyline from his years working under a Buddy-esque employer.Guy (Frank Whaley) is an aspiring writer who just landed the job of his dreams. He's going to be working for one of the biggest executives in show-biz, Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey). As Buddy's personal assistant, Guy will have the opportunity to go on to bigger and better things in time, as all of Buddy's previous assistants have done. Guy is certain that all his dreams are about to come true. Too bad for him, he's actually gone to hell. Buddy turns out to be the most evil, vicious boss ever to walk the planet, and Guy's life quickly becomes like that stuff you find underneath your toe nails. Guy is humiliated and forced to bear the brunt of his insults. However, once in Guy's power Buddy reveals for the first time a human, vulnerable side, telling a tragic story about his wife's death and revealing that he too was once a bullied assistant to powerful, tyrannical men, leading to why he subjects Guy to such abuse. The only thing Guy has left is his relationship with Dawn Lockhart (Michelle Forbes), a producer who often works with Buddy. It doesn't take Guy long to discover that Buddy is a notoriously temperamental boss who gleefully torments his assistants, both verbally and physically. He eventually cracks under the strain of Buddy's ceaseless abuses, especially when matters eventually implicate his girlfriend, Dawn Lockard, played by Michelle Forbes. He takes Buddy hostage to make him pay for every insult and offense of the past year.
This storyline is interrupted by a series of flashbacks that tell us how their relationship developed, namely, why Guy wants to kill Buddy. Those scenes occur in flashback, with the film's present set a year later with Buddy getting his revenge by kidnapping and torturing Buddy.
The movie takes aim at power, privilege, conformity, complacency, and sycophancy, as well as the Hollywood bureaucracy. The tone is set at the beginning of the picture at a gathering of young Hollywood executives, most of whom admit to having no clue about who Shelley Winters is; and they want to make movies? What's worse, absolutely no one seems to recognize the name of a director in the film, Foster Kane, as the main character in one of the most important movies ever made. Maybe Buddy has a point when he says to people, Shut up, listen, and learn. Buddy's idea of dealing with an unfavorable article in Time magazine is to have Guy find and destroy every copy in town! So Guy's retaliation isn't surprising; as Dawn tells him early on, Punching below the belt is not only allowed, it's rewarded.
Swimming With Sharks is barbed and funny, in the darkest possible way. Culminating in a violent and ultimately ironic confrontation between mentor and prot?g?, this brutal 1994 black comedy benefits from some razor-sharp writing and terrific comic turns. While Whaley is quite good as Guy, this is Spacey's show all the way. He does an outstanding job playing the boss from hell taken hostage by his employee after a year of abuse. He manages at once to be terrifying, hateful, and hilarious, and he makes Buddy Ackerman a character the audience won't soon forget. The good acting and punchy dialogues will definitely secure your attention and approval.