Swimming With Sharks review by Geoff Roberts

Swimming With Sharks

Geoff Roberts

Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey) is a sleazy vice-president of production at Keystone Pictures and a Hollywood giant when it comes to producing movies. The one problem he has is people skills and the constant turnaround with personal assistants who just cannot reach the impossible goals and demands he saddles them with.

If you want to get ahead with Keystone Pictures you best be prepared to dodge insults, paperweights and food hurled at your head. Absolutely nobody can satisfy Buddy who has just hired yet another personal assistant named Guy (Frank Whaley) to abuse on a daily basis.

From the start it is abundantly clear Guy is in for one hell of a rough ride. Buddy just cannot be satisfied and as far as Buddy is concerned Guy is just another person who cannot hack it and worst of all the kind of person he hates the most a brainless, spineless jellyfish who does not fight back or take charge of situations or have the answers Buddy seeks.

Spacey literally takes over Guys life piece by piece harassing him at all hours of the day and night with tasks that are to be completed including picking up sensitive prescription drugs and going to the office late at night to retrieve a phone number left in an address book on his desk.

Another time Guy is forced to spend all night in the office trying to destroy a ton of Time Magazines and prevent them from being purchased at local newsstands because a reporter got the story right about Buddy being a tyrannical jerk and outright menace on the Hollywood film scene. Being called the blight of society by Time Magazine is clearly not going to bode well for Buddys career.

The only solace for Guy is Dawn (Michelle Forbes) a producer who has trouble getting art-house films off the ground. The two fall for one another. Guy faces a moral issue when Buddy is looking for the next hit picture that will connect with youth. Guy knows Dawn has the right script and knows Buddy is interested in a talented hot-shot director who can deliver the goods.

The only problem Guy hates Buddy as does Dawn who left his office a few months ago. Dawn wants to go with a producer she knows but Guy knows that Dawn will be screwed over, her script stolen and left with nothing. He knows that Buddy is a jerk but Buddy will share in the profits and accolades or so he thinks. His boss would not screw him over or would he?

It is clear to Buddy he better act as though Guy is his partner or he will lose everything. He has Guy work on a new ending and second draft of the script telling him to hell with spelling mistakes. He gives a mistake riddled script to studio executives who arent impressed with Buddys lack of thought. Buddy then blames Guy his brainless and stupid personal assistant who cannot type anything up right.

Knowing Buddy has screwed him for the first time he sees he might do it again with far more personal things at stake. This time its personal and Guy has snapped to the point of showing up at Buddys apartment taking him hostage thus setting up one of the most clever and mean-spirited dark comedies to come down the pike in recent memory.

While first released in 1995 Swimming With Sharks never caught on at the box office or on home video. Lions Gate Pictures is taking a risk with releasing a ten year anniversary special edition. They hope it will catch on with fans of Spacey who is at the height of his career and popularity. This film is pure Spacey at his absolute best as the tyrannical Buddy in a performance that is not quite over the top.

Jack Nicholson would be the only other actor to pull this part off successfully with manic behavior sucking the audience and characters into a spiders web of deceit. None of the characters are what they seem and that is what makes this film a guilty pleasure to watch.

Forbes and Whaley are at the height of their game here and hopefully this will earn them respect from audiences and Hollywood casting directors. While the premise has been done to death in such comedies as 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman this film is much darker and meanspirited material.

Each character has to deal with their own thought process and how it haunts them or drives them to act. Director and writer George Huang has answered successfully how far would we go if in reality we could exact revenge on our bosses from hell. The film is well worth purchasing or renting.

8 out of 10 Jackasses

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