The Horror Honeys: Shut up. Listen. Learn.

Shut up. Listen. Learn.

A Revenge Honey First Love Review by Linnie

Swimming with Sharks (1994)

"Life is not a movie. Everyone lies, good guys lose, and love... does not conquer all."

Like most of the Honeys, I enjoyed an especially permissive childhood. As I was a (mostly) only child AND homeschooled, this is probably even more true for me. Both my parents worked, so I would rush through any schoolwork early in the morning and then spend the rest of the day watching movies. In 1995-ish, during my weekly trip to the video store, I fiendishly snatched up a copy of The Usual Suspects (which I never returned... sorry Blockbuster), and a life-long love affair with Kevin Spacey was born. I immediately began renting every film Spacey had ever starred in, including the NC-17 Henry & June... seriously. My parents didn't even look at the boxes. And while I partially give credit to these films for aging me far beyond my 12 years, they also led to an appreciation for subversive cinema and solid usage of the word "fuck."

Just like that. Well done, Mr. Bomer.
Glengarry, Glenn Ross, Outbreak, Se7en, The Ref... I became a hoarder of Kevin Spacey movies. But no one film from Spacey's early career has remained more engrained in my psyche than Swimming with Sharks. George Huang's semi-autobiographical film about his days as an assistant to a Hollywood power-player was, as far as I can remember, my first true introduction to revenge cinema. And best of all, it instilled in me a love for the revenge genre, as well as for comedy that is black as hell. So join me, my darklings, for the ageless brutal comedy that is Swimming with Sharks.

(As this movie is over 20 years old, I would normally say the "spoiler rule" doesn't apply. But as this film isn't AS well-known as Se7en or The Usual Suspects, I will be respectful and say... SPOILERS AHEAD.)

Um... I'd still do him. Just like that. #sorrynotsorryactuallynotsorryatall
"That's the trouble with your whole MTV, microwave dinner generation. You want it all now. You think you deserve it just because you want it? It doesn't work like that. You have to earn it, you have to take it, you have to make it yours. But before you do that, Guy, you need to decide what it is you really want."

The Story: Guy (Frank Whaley) is a wide-eyed dreamer searching for his big break in Hollywood, so he takes a job as an assistant to Hollywood producer Buddy Ackerman (Spacey). The problem is, Buddy is a tyrant, constantly browbeating and harassing Guy, while generally making his life miserable. Then the night comes when it seems that Buddy is not only about to unceremoniously fire Guy, but also have sex with the woman Guy is in love with, producer Dawn Lockard (Michelle Forbes). So Guy decides it's time for a little revenge, as only a verbally abused personal assistant could deliver it.

That artificial sweetener is going to kill you either way, dear.
Swimming with Sharks is so unbelievably accurate when it comes to the details that it is clear Huang based the film on his own experiences as a personal assistant. Ackerman is inspired by Hollywood producer Joel Silver, and if Silver was even a tenth of the nightmare to work for that Buddy is, Huang deserves a medal. Two AM calls for booty call phone numbers, demands to buy and destroy every copy of a magazine in the entirety of LA, verbal abuse... Guy is treated like pond scum by Buddy, but Guy's desire to make it in Hollywood is always just a little more powerful than his own sense of self-preservation. And yet, as you watch Guy transition from starry-eyed dreamer to sleazy ladder-climber, Whaley makes it all so utterly believable. Because regardless of the dreams you bring to Los Angeles, when you work for a Buddy Ackerman, you are irreparably changed.

I spent an internship at a TV network like this.
"Look, I don't make the rules. I play by them. What, your job is unfair to you? Grow up, way it goes. People use you? Life's unfair? Grow up, way it goes. Your girlfriend doesn't love you? Tough shit, way it goes. Your wife gets raped and shot, and they leave their unfinished beers, their, their stinking long-necks just lying there on the ground? - So be it. Way it goes..."

In any other actor's hands, Buddy Ackerman could have been a caricature, a mustache-twirling villain that only existed to give you someone to hate. But of course, with Kevin Space in the role, Buddy is anything but one-note. His tirades are tinged with an undercurrent of terrible humor. His villainy is macabre and deeply unsettling. But when we are at last introduced to Buddy's backstory and see the circumstances that lead to him becoming a "Hollywood shark," you allegiances change. You start to view Buddy through an entirely different lens, and this is 100% a credit to Spacey's skill, which was expertly tuned even at the beginning of his career.

Never. Date. A. Filmmaker. Again, sorry not sorry, but it always ends badly.
Swimming with Sharks is one of those rare films from the 90s that hasn't aged at all. All of the dialogue, the messages, the Hollywood bullshit, it's all just as vital now as it was in 1994. The fact that almost nothing has changed in the film industry is actually kind of depressing. When Buddy yells at Guy, "No! Never work with women directors. They ovulate! Think about what that does to a three month shoot!," you can absolutely still imagine that being said inside a Los Angeles studio at this exact moment. 

If you've never seen Swimming with Sharks, drop whatever you're doing and watch it right now. You won't regret it. It's one of the few films I can watch to the end, and then immediately go right back to the beginning and watch it all over again in one sitting.

Revenge Honey Rating: 5 windup robots out of 5

Swimming with Sharks is available on Netflix Streaming, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube VOD, Google Play, and DVD