15 – 101mins – Comedy/Crime/Drama – 5th April 1996
Swimming With Sharks is set in the cut throat world of the film industry although this doesn’t dictate the plot as much as you might think. It follows Guy (Frank Whaley) who is a clean-shaven enthusiastic new recruit into this unique world landing himself a job as the personal assistant to Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey) an expletive throwing repugnant studio executive whose addition to your CV opens every door imaginable but is counteracted so much by his demeanour that many would find it not worth the trouble.
Guy seems to have the determination to see it through helped by script writer and love interest Dawn (Michelle Forbes) but after working for the man for over a year, cracks begin to surface and Guy is finally pushed too far showing up at Buddy’s home in the middle of the night intent on revenge. What plays out over the 100 minutes is a mixture between the past year of his life and the present unfolding situation.
This was George Huang’s first (and it would seem only notable) foray into the world of writing and directing and credit must be given to him. The script is impressive with Whaley engrossing himself into the character topped only by Spacey’s exceptional performance where he looks set to star in a similar, albeit toned down, role in Horrible Bosses. He not only excels in many of his ‘throwing a tantrum’ scenes but somehow brings sympathy and compassion to a character that we should not feel anything for. Even when being held hostage he emits a certain smug arrogance that would be misplaced in any other character apart from this one.
I felt conflicted given the knowledge at the beginning that Guy kidnaps his boss. It somewhat limits the sympathy you can show towards him regardless of finding out what Buddy did to drive him to such lengths.
I wouldn’t class this as a comedy per say as this is not going to have you laughing a great deal but rather an extremely dark satire of life in Hollywood and the means required to keep your head above the water. It shows us that the calling of the bright lights can change a man with only a few have what is required to make it. Add all of this together to an unexpected ending and it makes for an interesting watch.
Yes there are moments where I felt things were not quite working and the relationship between Dawn and Guy lacked that believability factor but Swimming With Sharks certainly made the time fly and has enough to keep it fresh in the mind for a couple of days at the very least.