Swimming With Sharks

‘Shut up, listen, and learn.’ This is the mantra of Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey of The Usual Suspects and Seven), megalomaniac Hollywood producer and everyone’s worst nightmare of a boss. Guy (Frank Whaley) is Buddy’s terrorised, vengeance-seeking assistant who sees the vicious, egocentric executive as his best hope of making it in Hollywood. And Michelle Forbes is the ball-busting, oh-so-cynical producer who comes, er, in between them.

This very black comedy marks an auspicious debut by director George Huang, who has clearly used his personal experience of working for three major studios to provide a wickedly accurate portrait of Hollywood. Since it involves murder, Huang’s depiction of the smug, unprincipled Buddy Ackerman owes something to Robert Altman’s The Player. ‘That hack’, Buddy sneers about Altman with typical generosity. ‘He couldn’t direct his way out of a paper bag.’

Like its leading protagonist, the film itself dares to go too far and succeeds brilliantly. Spacey gives what can only be described as a bravura performance as Buddy, a man so vituperatively vicious, manipulative, abusive and otherwise venal that Hollywood executives are loudly denying any resemblance. As Interview magazine concluded, ‘Vile fun. Watch this Spacey.’
U.S.A., 1994.
95 mins.

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