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Overall Rating
3.91

Awesome: 22.73%
Worth A Look52.27%
Average: 20.45%
Pretty Bad: 2.27%
Total Crap: 2.27%

3 reviews, 26 user ratings


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Swimming With Sharks
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by Paulapalooza

"It's like 'The Player' lite!"
4 stars

For some reason, I've never been a Frank Whaley fan. I actually surprised a friend a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned I couldn't stand him and then couldn't muster up any better reason than I've never seen him have a significant part in a movie I really enjoyed. He's always seemed like a piece of dusty furniture in the back of the room that you see out of the corner of your eye but never pay any attention to.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I finally got around to watching Whaley and company in "Swimming With Sharks" and, surprise, enjoying the hell out of it.

To be fair, this is mainly because of another bravura performance by Kevin Spacey. Few actors working today merit a viewing simply because they're there, but Spacey tops the list. Here he plays Buddy Ackerman, the number three guy at Keystone Pictures with a major chubbie for the number one spot. His string of assistants have all gone onto bigger and better things under his tutelage. The current assistant, Rex (Benicio del Toro) is moving on to a vice presidency at Paramount. So naïve nice guy Guy (Whaley) thinks it's a dream come true when he snags the plum role of Buddy's whipping boy. And whipped he is, within minutes, as he quickly learns a harsh lesson about the subtle yet important differences between Equal and Sweet'N'Low. Further abuses both personal and professional follow which destroy Guy's budding relationship with a young producer, Dawn Lockard (Michelle Forbes), and that is, as they say, the last straw for Guy who determines to heap out some abuse of his own.

"Swimming With Sharks" is an entertaining movie and something of a revenge fantasy for anyone who's ever been screwed by a boss, which is everyone. It's greatest asset, however, are a couple of key scenes where Spacey allows Ackerman to become a human being, tangling up the emotional ease Guy has in torturing him. These scenes are also frightening in that the things Buddy says actually begin to MAKE SENSE. It doesn't make him any less of a petulant toad, of course, but by wringing sympathy from a despicable character the film is given some much-needed weight.

Eventually, this film touches a lot of the same themes as Robert Altman's masterpiece "The Player" and sadly suffers from the comparison. While no element in "The Player" equals Spacey's manic yet subdued glee, "The Player" is a rare film where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and in detailing the lack of humanity and the loss of innocence inherent in the studio system, it is simply more profound and more adroit than its 1994 counterpart. Rather interesting that Buddy refers to Robert Altman as a hack during one of his rants.

Director/writer George Huang has pieced together a good cast, but some of his characters are cliché or flat, and Guy is barely three-dimensional. He's supposed to represent the average, good-intentioned film school grad, but he seems too sheltered and too clueless as to the way things really are in the business. You sympathize for him, sure, but you also wonder where his head is.

And Frank Whaley? Well, "Swimming With Sharks" proves the adage that a good script and solid supporting performances can make anyone look good. I'm not ready to reassess him quite yet, but he just got bumped up a notch.

For best effect, cast him in another Spacey movie.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=696&reviewer=21
originally posted: 05/17/00 08:51:44
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User Comments

5/31/14 PAUL SHORTT UGLY, ONE-DIMENSIONAL SATIRE, DESPITE A GREAT STAR PERFORMANCE 2 stars
7/10/10 brian Derivative ("The Player" meets "Misery") and unconvincing ending, but has its moments. 3 stars
11/07/09 Anonymous this is a messed up movie and not really a comedy. 4 stars
4/09/09 Dane Youssef Well-written, well-acted look at Hollywood off of the red carpet. Indie meets theater. 5 stars
2/16/07 johnnyfog Spacey is fucking scary at the end. He's the only reason to see this 3 stars
1/28/07 mets1986 Ridiculously over the top....in a good way 4 stars
5/04/03 George Jung One of the best films of the 1990s. Huang is a true talent. 5 stars
3/09/03 Jack Sommersby Entertaining satire, with a knockout perf by Spacey. 4 stars
8/03/02 R.W. Welch Cynical satire has strong writing and acting; not a box office pic. 4 stars
5/11/02 Justin P absolutely amazing performance by Spacey 5 stars
2/21/01 banjolady film industry study of corrupting character 4 stars
2/13/01 Jake This film definately has bite! 4 stars
2/12/01 Soggy Bottom Boy Similar to In the Company of Men in its power to disturb; intensely engrossing. 5 stars
5/17/00 The King of the Bros Radical like a Robot. 5 stars
2/16/00 Neil Austin To make a film this good with only 3 main people is genius 5 stars
12/03/99 terry spacey is great..film is odd 4 stars
10/28/99 Larry Barker loved the inside look at Hollywood Babylon lifesyles..just as I suspected! 4 stars
10/06/99 stevedub1 brill. start... grim turn... unfortunate, shallow ending. 4 stars
9/05/99 Weird Andy Evil,wicked,mean,and nasty. 4 stars
7/10/99 Elaine McNamara Spacey is brilliant 5 stars
1/29/99 hum if your already in a bad mood youll love it. otherwise it will ruin your day 4 stars
1/25/99 Chloe Marie Elestenogoph (clatter@hotmail.com) Depressing, angering, sickening...Fuck it! 1 stars
12/02/98 Kirgo One of the best behind hte scenes films ever! 5 stars
11/03/98 hum the right kind of over the top. itll shake you up 5 stars
9/27/98 Johny Good, but a little too over the top 3 stars
9/15/98 Chip Taylor Spacey's the best asshole in this movie. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Mar-1995 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  George Huang

Written by
  George Huang

Cast
  Kevin Spacey
  Frank Whaley
  Michelle Forbes
  Benicio Del Toro
  T.E. Russell
  Roy Dotrice



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