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>
LAST TRAIN TO SATANSVILLE
Written by Adam Franklin, Jimmy Hartridge, Jeremy Hindmarsh
Performed by Swervedriver
Published by EMI-Blackwook Music, Inc. (BMI) / Copyright
Courtesy of A&M Records See more »
Caustic, cynical examination of the inner workings of the film industry
While through the ages, many noteworthy motion pictures detailing the film industry itself have been made, the majority concentrated on a highly positive tone, portraying Hollywood as the organization which "brought dreams to life", or similar self serving platitudes. However, in the early 90s, a new trend began to emerge - films which delved below the glossy exterior of Hollywood and began to expose more negative aspects of the industry. One would be hard pressed to find as fitting an example of this Hollywood introspective neo- realism as writer/director George Huang's semi-autobiographical (but hopefully only to an extent...) Swimming With Sharks - a biting, cynical look at the interior of the film industry which challenges the preconceptions of the industry and its bleak aims.
Like Robert Altman's The Player, Swimming with Sharks offers a harshly critical commentary on the corporate moneymaking machine that is Hollywood, but from the opposite end: the perspective of a low level assistant striving to rise in the ranks. However, similar to Altman's work, Huang's film dabbles with the notion of being a black comedy or darkly satirical take on the business end of the film industry, but ultimately lacks the acerbic wit needed to succeed on such a front. As such, while the occasional moment of darkly gleeful comedic insight may derived, for the most part, the film falters on attempted darkly ironic comedic moments which come across as too heavy handed to be truly funny. The film's main strength is in its strictly dramatic climax; its harrowing and powerful turn of events toying with notions of all consuming ambition and free will in a truly gripping fashion. Combined with a numbingly unexpected and chilling ending scene, the film's finale is easily its strongest point - enough so to carry the occasional botched comic moment from earlier in the film. However, Tom Heil's understated and affecting single piano score and the occasional moment of intriguing cinematography also add to the overall quality of the work.
Kevin Spacey is the main pleasure to behold here as the film's main selling point, the "boss from Hell" figure Buddy Ackerman. Alternating between wryly funny, starkly powerful and disconcertingly human, Spacey, though disappointingly denied the ability to chew the scenery quite as much as one might hope for, easily walks away with the picture with his top notch work. Frank Whaley gives an adequate performance as the constantly put upon assistant who finally seeks revenge, though his character is given next to no development and Whaley lacks the engaging charisma needed to really sell the role. Michelle Forbes also comes across as disappointingly flat as an ambitious business woman caught between Spacey and Whaley, though she shines in certain scenes. Watch also for an early appearance by Benicio Del Toro in a tiny role as Whaley's predecessor.
While it may falter as the black comedy it clearly wants to be throughout, the film excels as the harshly critical drama it becomes by the end. An undeniably maliciously enjoyable performance by Spacey keeps the film afloat, and while it may occasionally come across as lopsided or falling short of its potential, Swimming with Sharks keeps enough surprises up its proverbial sleeve to remain interesting throughout as a cynical treatise on ambition and the film industry which thrives upon it.
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