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Swimming with Sharks: Special Edition

Review Written by: Will Penley
Film: A
Video/Audio/Extras: A-/A-/A-

Directed by: George Huang
Written by: George Huang
Produced by: Steve Alexander and Joanne Moore
Starring: Frank Waley, Kevin Spacey, Benicio Del Toro, Michelle Forbes, T.E. Russell, Roy Dotrice, Matthew Flint
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it

Writer/director George Huang was a Hollywood intern for ten years before he was able to make Swimming with Sharks. As Huang puts it, Sharks is a cautionary tale for all who wish to venture to Hollywood with dreams of greatness. The film was shot in just eighteen days with many setbacks, including a shoestring budget and the great Northridge earthquake of 1994. The result is phenomenal. The director has stated that the amazingly preposterous incidents in the film like when the main character is scolded for bringing the boss a pack of Equal instead of Sweet 'n Low, are exaggerated, but also that this is not a lesson in how to do things in Hollywood.

Ambitious film school graduate Guy (Frank Whaley) is eager to begin working for hotshot producer Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey in another one of his outstanding performances). Before meeting the man, he hears many nasty things about Ackerman from Rex (Benicio Del Toro), an intern who is about to become a V.P. at Paramount. Writing Rex's warning off as fabricated, Guy starts his first day at work. However, it turns out that the terrible things he was told were true and Guy finds himself in the clutches of a relentless, manipulative executive on a power trip. However, when Buddy finally requests too much of him, Guy decides to take him as his personal hostage so he can exact revenge!

This film is quite similar to The Player in content as both films are dark comedies about revenge and both are films set in Hollywood. Like The Player, this one has a very clever, smartly crafted screenplay, along with great performances by the principals. An "A" for the film. For the new special edition DVD, Lions Gate has upgraded the video to anamorphic widescreen and it shows. This is an excellent transfer with all the colors looking great and scratches/grain kept to a minimum. The remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio tracks serve the film well with the film's bountiful amount of dialogue very clear and free of hiss or other noises. Though I do have to wonder why they would do a DTS track for a film so dialogue-driven as this one. An "A-" for video and audio.

Quite a few extras have been included on this new edition. First, there are three -- count them, three -- audio commentaries for your listening pleasure. One is from director George Huang, which is probably my favorite, another is from Huang and Frank Whaley and a third from Kevin Spacey. The one with Spacey is much more dry and bland than the others, so I'm wondering why they didn't have Spacey record with Huang and Whaley. All these unnecessary audio tracks can have negative effects on the picture. Not the case here, but it happens.

The next extra is "Back to the Tank: Swimming 10 Years Later," a retrospective featurette that runs just over twenty minutes which provides interviews with cast and crew as they look back on the film a decade later. Two other featurettes, "Shark Tales: Life as a Hollywood Assistant" and "Let's Do Lunch: A Conversation with Colleagues" presents various stories from former Hollywood assistants that shows you how hellish working as an intern in that crazy town is.

These featurettes are followed up with a selection of seven deleted scenes with optional director's commentary. These are alright for a one-time watch, but they don't really add anything to the film, so it's easy to see why they were cut. Rounding out the disc is the film's original theatrical trailer and a gallery of other trailers for Lions Gate films. With great picture/sound quality along with a bevy of extras, this is a great disc, especially recommended to the film buffs reading. Remember, the stories in this film are exaggerated and are not to be taken literally...but consider it a warning.

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