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Customer Review

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and watchable, 10 July 2004
This review is from: Swimming With Sharks [1996] [DVD] (DVD)
Now and then it's still possible to be surprised by a film. This one was made as long ago as 1994 without achieving a widespread reputation except among the cognoscenti. Yes, despite the budget price this is an absolute humdinger of a film, a fact attested by the presence of that most virtuous of actors, Kevin Spacey, a man who will not appear in any film that fails to appeal to his noble and worthy instincts (in fact he says as much in the interesting but rather limited biography included among the extras on this DVD.)
Swimming with Sharks is a film designed to bite the hand that fed it. It attacks the vicious system that enables, indeed encourages studio executives to behave like spoiled children in tyrannical control of their own private fiefdoms, much as Altman's The Player did in the 80s (no surprise to see Spacey's film studio VP launch into a seething attack on Altman, then!), and rewards them for using and abusing those poor wretches over who they clambered to the top. "This is not like running a business," says Rex (Benicio del Toro), the previous incumbent of assistant to the Senior Executive Vice President of Keystone Pictures, "this is showbusiness."
"I paid my dues," says the VP, Buddy Ackerman, to Guy, the unfortunate assistant turning the tables on his torturer, as if that suddenly justifies the vicious treatment meted out to all and sundry, just as senior doctors resent any change to the system to prevent junior doctors having to work 120 hour weeks on the grounds that they had to do it and it didn't do them any harm, did it?
But does Guy change the world when he has the power to do so? The best part of this film is the ending, which avoids the happy cliches and goes for a darkly pessimistic view of the world - that people are ultimately selfish and out for all they can get. Bet Hollywood felt uncomfortable with that; either that, or the current rash of Exec VPs feel so secure in their power base that it can afford some noirish irony at their expense without feeling they need to wash more of their dirty linen in public (Michael Eisner and Disney have done plenty of that!)
Perhaps it's true after all that Americans don't understand irony, but this is a powerful but watchable film that deserves your attention.
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4.3 out of 5 stars (18 customer reviews)
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