Film: Swimming with Sharks
"Things are rough now, but they'll get better. I promise, Guy. If you prove you can manage these tasks, if you work hard now, then you're rewarded. You get to have some fun. Because don't ever forget, this job is very big on payback."
— Buddy Ackerman
A 1994 crime-drama starring Kevin Spacey
and Frank Whaley. The film revolves around a guy named Guy
, who gets a high-profile job as the personal assistant to corporate bigwig Jerk Ass Bad Boss
Buddy Ackerman. The film details the events, mainly in flashback, that lead from his first day on the job to the brutal kidnapping and torture of Buddy.
A gripping thriller, and Deconstruction
of the peoples' view of the glamorous world of film production and show business. A brutal love-triangle scenario mixed with Grey and Gray Morality
This film provides examples of:
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Ackerman, towards the beginning of the kidnapping.
- The Apprentice
- Arc Words: Did Ackerman say it? Then yes, it will be important later. No exceptions. This also leads to many, many examples of Ironic Echo.
What is it that you/do you (really) want ?
- Asshole Victim: Buddy.
- Bastard Understudy: Guy.
- Big "Shut Up!"
- Beleaguered Assistant: But of course.
- Buddy (Holding up schedule): You see this? This means more to the office than you. And yet, do I hear any complaints when I do THIS!? *throws scedule at Guy* These pencils, more important! These pens, more important! These paper clips, more important! You miserable little crybaby! You don't like it here, leave! There are thousands of people who would kill for your spot, who would kill for the opportunity to be here! I could spit and hit somebody who could do this job better than you! This is the fast-way to the top, and I don't see you breaking any speed records! Why don't you show a little backbone, huh!? Huh!?
- Blatant Lies: Much of what Buddy says to Guy towards the beginning.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The very last moments. At first, Guy gives up a short speech about what you really want: well, it's the moral of the fiction, clearly stated and based on the whole movie, so that you understand it. And finally, when we see Buddy closing the doors, it's THE END.
- Broken Aesop: If Buddy's speech about earning his position is designed to drive home an aesop about hard work, it is easy to misinterpret it as "endure cruelty, and inflicting it on others is not only justified, but your right."
- The Bully: Buddy.
You're happy. I hate that!
- The Chessmaster: Buddy. It seems that most of everything that happened towards the later half of the kidnapping was planned by him. Dawn seemed to walk in at the perfect time. His questioning of Guy seemed planned-out. And even that final look to Guy says "Good, good, you passed the test."
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Guy, when he kidnaps Buddy.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass
- Dawson Casting: While his age is stated as 25, Frank Whaley was 31 at the time, only four years younger than Spacey and two older than Michelle Forbes who plays Dawn.
- Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Ultimately Guy chooses the studio job, so he kills Dawn and he and Buddy tell a story that she was the one abusing Buddy while Guy saved him.
- Destructive Romance: Guy and Dawn.
- Disposable Woman: Dawn.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Not on purpose, especially seeing as how this came out before Seven, but there is a good example. A man, driven to madness due to a lost love, is pointing a gun at Kevin Spacey. Spacey is giving a Not So Different Hannibal Lecture, while a third person is on the side begging the man not to shoot Spacey, because this is just what he wants. It does turn out much differently though.
- Downer Ending: That, or Bittersweet Ending depending on your interpretation.
- Drama Bomb: Everything after we see Dawn's final phone call with Buddy.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Discussed.
- Freudian Excuse: Buddy, with his wife's death.
- 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 stinkin' longnecks... Just lying there on the gr-... So be it. Way it goes.
- Hannibal Lecture: Everything Buddy says during the last half of the kidnapping scenes.
- Heroic BSOD: Guy's breakdown that leads to Buddy's kidnapping.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Buddy seems to believe that suffering abuse gives him the right to be an abuser although that may be a cover for the real reason.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Stacy, the rival producer.
- Ironic Echo: Everything Buddy says will be used sometime later by Guy in some way.
- Jerkass: Buddy. It's amazing that no one snapped on him earlier.
- Justified Criminal
- Laser-Guided Karma: Buddy's entire torture counts as this or disproportionate retribution.
- Limited Advancement Opportunities
- Living MacGuffin: Dawn.
- The Lost Lenore : Buddy's wife, type A.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Guy.
- Mean Boss: Do I even have to say?
- Meaningful Echo: Again, everything Buddy says will come up again.
- Nice to the Waiter: Buddy is absolutely horrible to everyone who works under him.
- No Respect Guy: Guy, at the beginning.
- Not So Different: Buddy to Guy.
Look, I can appreciate this. I was young too, I felt just like you. Hated authority, hated all my bosses, thought they were full of shit. Look, it's like they say, if you're not a rebel by the age of 20, you got no heart, but if you haven't turned establishment by 30, you've got no brains. Because there are no story-book romances, no fairy-tale endings. So before you run out and change the world, ask yourself, "What do you really want?"
- The Obstructive Love Interest: Dawn.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: A requirement for the job.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis! : SHUT UP. LISTEN. AND LEARN.
You. Have. No. Brain.
- Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: After a point, everything Buddy (who is tied to a chair after being kidnapped and brutally tortured) says seems planned out entirely.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Most of everything Ackerman says during the latter half of the kidnapping. Especially once Dawn arrives.
Buddy: What happened to standing by your man, Dawn? Oh, that's right. You don't stand by your men. You stand on them as you climb up to get to the next one's bed. Yeah, let me tell you a little something about Dawn here. She used to be quite the little fuck-towel. Fresh film-school grad who fucked her way to top assistant desk, fucked her way to junior executive, and fucked her way to VP. It was quite a rise. Of course, she stopped all that the day she finally got her producer deal. Been three years now, trying to make important films, redeeming films. See, she started to worry about words like "honor," "dignity," and "respect." Words that a one-time, two-bit tramp could never afford.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Buddy does this to himself when he starts crying after bringing up his wife.
- Sir Swearsalot: It's Kevin Spacey. You expect anything different?
- Testosterone Poisoning: The films that Ackerman usually produces.
- Teen Drama: The piece that Dawn and Guy are planning to put together.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork
- A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Think out about how much you're bullying Guy before you get yourself kidnapped, Buddy!
- We Can Rule Together: Buddy's speech to Guy when trying to get him to convince Dawn to come to their studio and not to their competitor's.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Guy