150 user 39 critic

Swimming with Sharks (1994)

R | | Comedy, Crime | 21 April 1995 (USA)
2:10 | Trailer

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A young, naive Hollywood studio assistant finally turns the tables on his incredibly abusive producer boss.



4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Foster Kane
Cyrus Miles
Matthew Flint ...


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 <jrihl@conncoll.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Back Stabbing - Two Faced - Revenge See more »


Comedy | Crime

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some scenes of psychological/physical torture and pervasive strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

21 April 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Boss  »


Box Office


$700,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


'Michelle Forbes' said she got cast in the film during a time when she was frustrated by the entertainment industry and considering another career, feelings which fit perfectly with the nature of the film. See more »


Buddy Ackerman has a binder with a piece of paper on top. When he throws it to the desk and talks to Guy, the paper falls off the binder, but re-appears in the next shot. See more »


Buddy: No offense to you, but you are just an assistant. Now, granted, you're MY assistant, but still just an assistant. Dawn, on the other hand, is a producer. Her car phone bills are more than your rent. So, just how far do you think you'll get?
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Referenced in Dot the I (2003) See more »


Written by Tony Colman
Performed by IZIT and the Powdered Rhino Homs
Published by Copyright Control (PRS)
Courtesy of Tongue & Groove Records
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User Reviews

One of the best artistic commentaries on the professional world
22 July 2006 | by See all my reviews

This film would be worth watching just for Kevin Spacey's portrayal of the ultimate boss from hell, Buddy Ackerman, but there's also much more than that going on. Ostensibly a damning look at the inner workings of the film business, Swimming with Sharks just as accurately depicts any highly dysfunctional employer/employee/associate relationships, and that's a lot of them.

But even more than that, there is a lot of mostly unstated philosophical material underpinning much of the film, some of it literal and some more metaphorical, such as the ending. One of the key lines of dialogue towards this end is Ackerman's, "If you're not a rebel by 21, you've got no heart, and if you haven't gone establishment by 30, you've got no brain".

Ackerman obviously has problems or he wouldn't be acting quite in the way that he is, but director George Huang and Spacey are also careful to show that Ackerman has a lot more going on than surface behavior--he's acting the way that he is purposefully, both to get his due now as part of the establishment and to coyly manipulate his young, meek and abused underling, Guy (Frank Whaley), along with everyone else he comes into contact with. His aim is to mold Guy in a particular way--a way that works even though Guy thinks that he's severely breaking form in the extended penultimate scene that's intercut with Guy and Ackerman's history.

Huang shows professional relationships as consisting mostly of politicking and manipulation. That's true at every level--certainly even Guy is doing this. There is very little authenticity to anyone in their working relationships. That seems pretty accurate to me, unfortunately. It's notable that the one dream of authenticity in the film--Guy talking about moving to Wyoming with Dawn (Michelle Forbes)--is treated and dispensed with as an unreachable fantasy, and it's also notable (and is fairly literally pointed out in the film) that Dawn, the one character who tries to demand being more authentic amidst the "shark infested waters" of the professional world, basically never gets anywhere.

In the highly metaphorical ending of the film, things remain manipulative, political and backstabbing, and in that climate, at least two out of three characters "win". Huang seems to be suggesting that the professional world ain't likely to change any time soon, and that even if you try to change it or manipulate the game itself, you're likely to just get eaten up by it, processed by it and incorporated into it anyway. Again, I can't say I disagree with him.

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