Swimming With Sharks

"Very Good"

Swimming With Sharks Review


In 1994, the indie revolution was well underway, bolstered by the recent successes of icons like Steven Soderbergh, Robert Rodriguez, and Richard Linklater. George Huang hit the scene out of nowhere and with a fascinating story: He had been drudging his way as an assistant in Hollywood (for Columbia Pictures, as it turned out), and he somehow scraped together the money and the talent to make a movie inspired by his awful experiences there.

Swimming With Sharks rapidly became a cult favorite, a mean and unsparing indictment of the Hollywood ego trip, as seen through its evil villain (Kevin Spacey in one of his first standout roles) and his nebbish assistant (Frank Whaley, playing the Huang character). Whaley's Guy suffers the abuse of Spacey's power broker, Buddy Ackerman until it hits a breaking point. (Sample dialogue: "You have no brain. No judgement calls are necessary. What you think means nothing. What you feel means nothing. You are here for me. You are here to protect my interests and to serve my needs.") Finally, when Buddy makes a move on Guy's new girlfriend, a studio producer named Dawn (Michelle Forbes) who has inexplicably latched on to Guy, Guy goes bananas and takes Buddy hostage in his own home. It's a come to Jesus moment, and the entire film is cast as a series of flashbacks from that night in his house.

Movies like this have been made before -- in fact, in the 1990s they were making one a year (Suicide Kings, The Ref (also with Spacey)), and aside from the scorching dialogue there's not much here that feels original. Whaly and Forbes are good (and watch for an early Benicio Del Toro appearance), but Spacey's dripping vitriol steals the show completely.

Perhaps its biggest lesson is Huang's aftermath, which hasn't seen him direct another film of consequence since. (Trivia notes that Huang shot Elijah Wood's audition video for Lord of the Rings. Wow.) Did Huang's tale of torturing studio executives have a negative impact on his ability to get work in Hollywood? Say it ain't so!

The film is now available on a mega-DVD package, which includes three commentary tracks, a 10-year retrospective, 15 minutes of deleted scenes, and a couple of additional featurettes. If you've never seen the film, this disc is the perfect way to experience it.



Swimming With Sharks

Facts and Figures

Run time: 101 mins

In Theaters: Friday 21st April 1995

Distributed by: Trimark

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Buddy Ackerman, as Guy, as Dawn Lockard, as Rex, T.E. Russell as Foster Kane, Roy Dotrice as Cyrus Miles, as Manny, as Moe, as Jack

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