A young Hollywood executive becomes the assistant to a big time movie producer who is the worst boss imaginable: abusive, abrasive and cruel. But soon things turn around when the young executive kidnaps his boss and visits all the cruelties back on him.Written by
Jason Ihle <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Swimming with Sharks sees Guy (Frank Whaley) attempt to "turn the tables" on his abusive boss Buddy (Kevin Spacey), and while this makes the film simple and unoriginal in terms of plot, it is a cut above the rest thanks to the performances of its small cast.
One would assume that we would root for Guy, the innocent graduate demeaned by his aggressive boss, but the way the film tells the story prevents us from empathizing with him (as does his awful haircut); knowing that he tortures Buddy physically for his mental abuse complicates our response, and puts us on Buddy's side, allowing us to enjoy the games Buddy plays with Guy. This is something that's made very easy to do by the acting. Kevin Spacey is typically excellent as Buddy Ackerman and is the most engaging character in the film, remaining funny and manipulative throughout, even while being tortured and held hostage, as well as handling the more serious emotional aspects of his character expertly. Frank Whaley is also brilliant, playing the overwhelmed lapdog who is eventually pushed over the edge by Buddy's abuse. Importantly however, despite his plans for revenge, he remains under Buddy's spell right up until the end, and is eventually broken.
The film's conclusion further complicates our responses to both characters. The hostage situation revelations pull the audience between the impassioned-now-heartless Buddy and the desperate and confused Guy, but ultimately good does not prevail, and the shooting and Buddy's manipulation of the situation remove us from both characters as the film ends.
All in all, Swimming with Sharks is an enjoyable film. The simple plot and small cast are compensated for by some fine performances; it's funny , well-acted, and definitely worth watching.
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