Swimming with Sharks


Swimming with Sharks

Critics Consensus

Swimming With Sharks is a smart, merciless Hollywood satire that's darkly hilarious and observant, thanks to Kevin Spacey's performance as ruthless studio mogul Buddy Ackerman.



Total Count: 36


Audience Score

User Ratings: 11,070
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Movie Info

Originally screened at Telluride as The Buddy Factor, Swimming With Sharks is an uneven but engrossing picture, and a possible warning to anyone with plans to break into the motion-picture business. When Guy (Frank Whaley), a recent film-school graduate with big ideas, takes a job as assistant to major studio executive Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey), he believes his ship has finally come in; little does he know it's a slave ship, for his boss is indeed worse than a slave driver. Buddy delights in abusing his boy-toy (exemplified by the scene in which he forbids Guy to go to the bathroom as he pours water back and forth from a glass to a pitcher). Meanwhile, Guy struggles to push his idea for a script and feels he's finally made it when Buddy congratulates him on a job well done. However, much to his chagrin, his conniving boss actually takes sole credit for the project, pushing the young assistant to wit's end -- he breaks into Buddy's Beverly Hills showplace and takes him hostage, then proceeds to torture him in a number of demeaning and horrifying ways. The whole film stands as a sort of parable about the value system in Hollywood and the cost of reaching the top; it doesn't play like real life, but it's not supposed to. The real reason to watch the film, however, is Spacey's performance. He manages at once to be terrifying, hateful, and hilarious, and he makes Buddy Ackerman a character the audience won't soon forget. ~ Jeremy Beday, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Swimming with Sharks

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (12) | Fresh (28) | Rotten (8)

  • The picture's raison d'être has to be Spacey's 'loud and nasty' performance: he's the sort of actor who grabs you by the throat and beats you about the head without ever lifting his feet from the desk.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Mr. Spacey's Buddy is a caricature so dazzling that even Buddy might have to say something nice about it: cool, withering, studiously suave, and spurred by impulses that might seem peevish even in a 2-year-old child.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 4/5
  • This excessively talky, incoherently plotted, would-be film noir is not very good.

    Apr 12, 2002
  • To outsiders, all this rage and gnashing of teeth may seem silly and self-absorbed.

    Feb 13, 2001 | Full Review…
  • Sharks is a one-joke movie, and the joke wears thin less than halfway through.

    Jan 1, 2000

    Mary Brennan

    Top Critic
  • The film has no subtlety, so the one-dimensional story comes across as a sophomoric, pointless tirade.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Swimming with Sharks

  • May 25, 2015
    The twist at the end isn't all that chilling, frankly it's forced and a little excessive. It's a shame because this may be Spacey's best "shouting egomaniac" performance.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 31, 2012
    We have learned from Horrible Bosses and Margin Call that Kevin Spacey plays a wonderful flawed boss. Here is one of his first examples of being the guy that you would love to push out a window. While you can wish that Spacey would vary his roles a wee bit more, these scene chewing moments are fabulous.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 11, 2012
    Rex: This is not a business, this is show business. Punching below the belt is not only all right, it's rewarded.  "Life is not a movie" I loved everything about Swimming With the Sharks, right up until the unsatisfying ending. Even with an ending that leaves something to be desired, this is still a worthwhile and extremely good film. It's dark and it's funny. Two things I love in movies. It has Kevin Spacey doing what he does best and that is acting like a complete asshole. It has Frank Whaley acting as a cowardly assistant, and he is perfectly cast.  I can see some people not enjoying this movie at all. It's all dialogue and little action. Most of the runtime is spent watching an assistant get yelled at for the smallest things. But it's funny and extremely well written. Every tirade that Kevin Spacey goes on feels perfect. The changes in Frank Whaley's character feel perfect. This movie feels perfect. If only it could have come up with the perfect ending. The movies plot follows an assistant to a movie executive. He gets in a relationship with a producer and begins to put plans together for a movie. He has to deal with his difficult boss and every little detail of the mans life. It gets to the point where he can do almost nothing else. Every aspect of his life is ruled by his boss. I love movies of this type. It has a definite feeling of independent filmmaking powering it. It's a pretty harsh and dark comedy, which I love. As a fan of dark movies, I feel that this does just about everything right. It developed it's characters in a way that made us genuinely care about one and hate the other. It presented dark themes in humorous ways, and it never backed away from how depressing Guy's life is, now that he is under the command of Buddy. This would probably be one of my favorites of all-time if it had found a better way to wrap up the story.
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 08, 2012
    Quite a good movie that probably takes itself too seriously at the end, but it's also one that's really well written, funny and has some excellent performances. Kevin Spacey is the, obvious, highlight of the movie as he's out of this world being a complete and utter dick. I can see how much Horrible Bosses really took from this movie, yet at the same time completely missed the boat on what made this movie work. The problem with that movie is that if it wasn't for the improvisation by the cast, and their chemistry, it wouldn't have been good at all. The writing, other than for Jennifer Aniston's character, was sub-par for that movie, and it shows. But yea, this movie is really entertaining and it's a shame that George Huang has sort of disappeared, with the exception of the anthology film Locker 13, as he did a great job with this movie, even if the movie is a bit uneven and inconsistent.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer

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