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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Nov 19: Swimming with Sharks


Nov 19: Swimming with Sharks

"A young, naive Hollywood studio assistant finally turns the tables on his incredibly abusive producer boss."
Directed by: George Huang, Rated: R, 101 minutes

Last year, we were gifted with the great little comedy, Horrible Bosses, a film about a group of guys who decide to murder their bosses after putting up with way too much bullshit. The film stars Kevin Spacey as a complete asshole who demeans his co-workers and even rubs it in for greater effect. Little do some of you know, Spacey played a very similar role in 1994's Swimming with Sharks. However, he's an even bigger prick and an even worse human being and the consequences of his actions are much more extreme then that of the lighter Horrible Bosses. The film is much more somber as well, and while it has moments of dark comedy, it's more drama than fun.

And it features a lot of shouting from Spacey. Something we have all learned to love. 

Guy (Frank Whaley) is a nervous, fresh out of film school young man who's looking to break into the Hollywood business. Excited at any prospect, Guy accepts a job at a film studio as the assistant to Buddy Ackerman (Spacey), a hot shot executive who tears through people with his mean words and horrible actions. He lies, cheats, and does whatever he can to be the best, even if it means stealing ideas or trampling over anyone in his way. He's far from Boss of the Year material and the poor Guy can only go so long without snapping (which he does). Guy breaks into Buddy's house, ties him up, and tortures him in an act of revenge. Swimming with Sharks goes back and forth between Guy covering Buddy's wounds with salt and lime and the days when he first started working for him. We see Guy's first interactions with Buddy and quickly become aware of how awful Buddy is, thus in a twisted sense, justifying Guys' actions later on. We also take a glimpse at the budding romance between Guy and Dawn (Michelle Forbes) and even Buddy's attempt to ruin that.

Swimming with Sharks is both black comedy and serious drama. At first glance, Guy appears to be a man who's gone psychotic over being pushed around too much at work. He's borderline lunatic and you think that he's crossed the line when it comes to torturing Buddy. However, as the film progresses and we see the story behind Guy's actions, we relate in a sick way. We've all hard terrible bosses we fantasize about punching in the face or pushing into traffic, and seeing Guy get completely destroyed by Buddy is something we would never wish upon our worst enemies (except those bosses). While Guy certainly goes to the extreme, the more we see of Buddy, the more we hate him as well and hope that pain is inflicted upon him. It's by no means fun to watch, but you don't look away, as you're curious as to seeing how far Guy will go. It has a dark edge to it that makes it entertaining but when you're left thinking about it, you're slightly disturbed. 

Saw: Living Room edition. 

Both Whaley and Spacey give absolutely incredible performances. Whaley is perfect as the nervous guy that's been bullied too much and him snapping into lunacy is very believable. He's never painted as the enemy and his simplicity and normalcy add to the realism and ability to relate. Spacey delivers again as Buddy and continues to impress me as an actor. His egotistical "I'm better than anyone" attitude is eerily believable and makes you wonder what working for him in real life must be like. He crawls under your skin and plants himself comfortably, laughing his ass off as you writhe in pain. You hate it, but you love it. And it's a big reason why Swimming with Sharks works. The film is far from perfect but it's a nice little look into the Hollywood executive life and the lengths people will go to not only get to the top, but keep that position and reign supreme. I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

The Good:
great performances by the two leads with a bite coming from Spacey that makes you hate him just a little bit
The Bad:
experiencing a hell of a workplace with Guy, and wondering how disgustingly awful it would be being in that situation
The Ugly:
knowing that there are people out there with the same mentality of Buddy and that there is someone, somewhere, being trampled over by said people

Overall: 7.6/10

Discussion Question:
What's the worst boss you have ever had? Any twisted fantasies about seeing them in pain?


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At November 20, 2012 at 6:15 AM , Blogger Ben Hayward said...

This is so strange. Last night I was snooping around IMDB looking for new films to add to my 'to watch' list and this was one of them. I log in this afternoon and you've reviewed it!

I love me some Kevin Spacey, this seems like a really good film.

At November 20, 2012 at 8:06 AM , Blogger TheVern said...

So glad you reviewed this one Nick. This is one of my favorite Dark Comedies. The Speech that Buddy gives near the end asking Guy what he he really wants is amazing

At November 20, 2012 at 9:18 AM , Blogger Nick said...

I read your mind. The blogging powers I have acquired have elevated me to telepathic levels.

At November 20, 2012 at 9:20 AM , Blogger Nick said...

It is. All of the dialogue is really smart and twisted and funny lol.


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