A harsh, cutting, and wickedly funny look into the darker side of show business, Swimming with Sharks tells the story of a naive and eager assistant (Frank Whaley) and his slide into the cutthroat world of Hollywood power struggles. Whaley goes to work for a top movie executive (Kevin Spacey) who almost immediately begins to wear down his new assistant’s exuberance with his whining, egomaniacal tantrums and relentless verbal abuse, even as he promises his young charge a chance to move up the ladder. Culminating in a violent and ultimately ironic confrontation between mentor and protégé, this brutal 1994 black comedy benefits from some razor-sharp writing and terrific comic turns from both Whaley as one whose idealism is irrevocably shattered, and Spacey, deliciously funny as a caustic, belligerent, and ultimately sad figure. A savage indictment of both the movie business and the price of ambition, Swimming with Sharks is one of the best black comedies in recent years. —Robert Lane
Huang's knowing and acerbic script still has the power to entertain. Spacey was never better than as Buddy Akerman the ultimate boss from hell. Whaley was great as the assistant pushed too far. Film failed at the box office but quickly became a cult item. 'Shut up, listen, and learn' became one of my fav film quotes for some time after seeing this. Though it took place in the film industry the story was universal.
Plenty of moments of witty dialogue and references only seasoned movie nerds will get, Swimming with Sharks is not as effective as it could have been. The script veers wildly between comedy and drama without much transition, and the drama is often abrupt and without background. Still, this is one of Kevin Spacey’s best performances and Buddy Ackerman is a towering, magnetic character. Gotta’ love that opening scene!
Kevin Spacey, more often than not, gets handed the sharpest, funniest, cleverest, most desirable monologues in his roles. In Glengarry Glen Ross, he delivered cold lines of fury when talking to his… read review