152 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.


George Huang


George Huang
4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Kevin Spacey ... Buddy Ackerman
Frank Whaley ... Guy
Michelle Forbes ... Dawn Lockard
Benicio Del Toro ... Rex
T.E. Russell ... Foster Kane
Roy Dotrice ... Cyrus Miles
Matthew Flint Matthew Flint ... Manny
Patrick Fischler ... Moe
Jerry Levine ... Jack


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


In Hollywood all his dreams could come true... But first he has to make coffee. 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:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

21 April 1995 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Boss See more »


Box Office


$700,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Shot in 18 days. See more »


Near the end of the film when Guy is in the office and his friend asks him to put in a good word for him, Guy stubs out the same cigarette he is smoking, in 2 separate shots. See more »


Buddy: Out here, it's kill your parents, fuck your friends, and have a nice day.
See more »


References A Patch of Blue (1965) See more »


Written by Adam Franklin, Jimmy Hartridge, Jeremy Hindmarsh
Performed by Swervedriver
Published by EMI-Blackwook Music, Inc. (BMI) / Copyright
Control (PRS)
Courtesy of A&M Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Caustic, cynical examination of the inner workings of the film industry
1 February 2008 | by pyrocitorSee all my reviews

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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