Plot: What’s it about?
Guy (Frank Whaley) thinks he has been given the chance of a lifetime, a job that will almost lock him into the Hollywood scene. Right out of film school, Guy has been hired to be the assistant of Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey), a man with power in the business like few others. While the job is notorious for the abuse the assistant must endure, all of the previous workers have gone to bigger and better jobs within the industry, so the pain is worth the payoff. Nervous and eager to make a good impression, Guy reports to work on the first day, not knowing just what personal hell awaits him. After bringing Buddy the wrong type of sugar substitute, Guy learns the hard way how meticulous and demanding Buddy is, and the price he makes his assistants pay for screwing up. Whether shuffling papers, lying to people on the phone, or just getting yelled at, Guy endures all manner of abuse from Buddy, even when it seems he’s done the right thing. All the abuse builds inside Guy, until he cannot hold it in anymore, and he unleashes it on Buddy. With Buddy as his hostage, Guy decides to let Buddy enter the world of pain he’s put Guy through.
While Trimark issues a large number of lesser known films, most of them are overlooked. This movie is one of the reasons Trimark is one of my favorite studios, they release some wonderful movies that wouldn’t have seen a release otherwise. I still don’t know why the bigger studios passed this movie up, I think it is one of the best movies to come out in recent years. This movie has no special effects, explosions, or other flashy elements, but it still shines as a fantastic flick. It may lack those elements, but it has what few movies contain, a brilliant concept, well written storyline, and outstanding acting. This film has some of the finest dialogue I’ve ever heard, and the tirades of Buddy Ackerman are classics. What Buddy says to Guy is funny, but it’s funny because of how awful it is, not because it’s humorous in the traditional sense. I do feel the need to inform first time viewers that this is a dark movie, so don’t expect a flat out comedy here. If you’re looking for a well crafted movie with fine acting and writing, this is a sure fire choice. The disc is a good one, so your money is well spend, whether you choose to purchase or rent.
This film was written and directed by George Huang, who manages to pull off a masterful film his first time out of the gate. The writing is incredible here, some of the best in recent years, and his directing skills aren’t bad either, with a solid visual style and excellent performances from the actors. While this movie has several terrific performances, this movie belongs to Kevin Spacey, who gives one of the best performances of his career here. Spacey is among the best actors of this era, and his multiple Oscars are a testament to his skills. Other powerful Spacey performances can be seen in American Beauty, The Usual Suspects, L.A. Confidential, and The Negotiator. While not as powerful in obvious ways, the performance of Frank Whaley is quite strong, though most of it is subtle instead of in your face. I feel Whaley (Born On The Fourth Of July, Career Opportunities) is one of the most underused and underrated actors in the business, which is a shame, given his talents. Whaley ventured behind the camera recently for his movie Joe The King, and showed he was talented on both sides. The supporting cast for this film includes Michelle Forbes (Kalifornia, Escape From L.A.), Benicio Del Toro (Big Top Pee Wee, Snatch), Jerry Levine (Teen Wolf, Wag the Dog), Roy Dotrice (The Cutting Edge, Amadeus), and T.E. Russell (Toy Soldiers).
Video: How does it look?
Swimming With Sharks is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. A full frame version has been included on the flip side of the disc, for those who hate the black bars. The image is quite good, with little print damage and no compression errors present. The colors look sharp and colorful, even flesh tones are natural and distortion free. The contrast levels appear a little bright, but to a distracting degree. This makes the image seem on the soft side, but the quality is still above average.
Audio: How does it sound?
This movie relies on dialogue, so don’t expect an ear shattering track here. The surrounds see some limited use, usually involving the soundtrack or some subtle audio element. The dialogue is the main course in this mix, and aside from some minor problems, it comes across well. At times the dialogue seems thin or tinny, which makes the remote a needed commodity, to make sure you can hear all details. But these instances are rare, and overall the sound is above average, especially given the low budget origins of this film.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes filmographies for the major cast and crew, as well as the trailer for this movie. Three bonus trailers are also found here, for Cube, Box of Moonlight, and Chinese Box.