Swimming With Sharks (1994) Directed by George Huang
Summary of the Film
I chose to review the movie “Swimming With Sharks (1994),” which was written and directed by George Huang and starring Kevin Spacey, Frank Whaley, and Michelle Forbes. The protagonists in the film are Buddy Ackerman, Guy, Rex, and Dawn. Buddy is a wealthy and influential movie producer who hires Guy as his assistant. The latter has just graduated from film school and has no real-life experience of how the business world operates. Although Rex warns Guy of Buddy’s egocentric character, he still decides to take the job since he thinks it will create a chance for him to work in more established studios
Buddy turns out to be a hostile and unbecoming boss as Rex had earlier warned. In particular, he mistreats Guy, rebuffs, and even patronizes him. Worse still, he is regularly involved with young girls, including Dawn, who is Guy’s girlfriend. The climax of the movie occurs when Buddy fires Guy over a phone call. Guy snaps and abducts his boss. He ties Buddy to a chair where he tortures, beats, and subjects him to various humiliating acts for hours till he admits his mistakes and apologizes.
In the subsequent events, Buddy says that he was ones a victim of workplace bullying. He also talks about the tragic death of his wife, which left him lonely and empty. According to him, bullying a junior employee is a way of training him into being a successful leader. In the midst of these events, Dawn, who had earlier planned to have a rendezvous with Buddy visits his home where he finds Guy pointing a gun to her date. Buddy tells Guy to shoot Dawn so that he can get an easy promotion. Although shocked by Buddy’s suggestion, Guy agrees and fires the gun instantly killing Dawn. Later, he gets the opportunity to work in high positions in the organization where he interacts with Buddy as equals.
The film “Swimming With Sharks (1994)” reveals the element of workplace bullying and its detrimental effects on the operations of an organization. Buddy’s firm is highly affected with this form of bullying, which leads to bad relationships among employees and the emergence of a dysfunctional team. For example, Buddy’s behavior of bullying his juniors is the result of his experiences when he was a new worker in the firm. He spreads this culture to Guy and Rex when he bullies them and also when he informs the former that such acts make an employee to develop appropriate leadership skills. Due to Buddy’s patronizing behavior on Guy, the latter decides to revenge by holding him hostage. Similarly, Rex becomes hardened and unruly. In this regard, the film enlightens managers on the need to create a friendly work environment so that all employees can express their thoughts and enhance their skills (Griffin 56). Such a workplace will result in low staff turnover, and the employees will be productive and efficient.
The movie “Swimming With Sharks (1994)” shows the adverse effects if greed on the proper functioning of an organization. The underlying desire by incompetent individuals to attain senior positions makes them use crooked means to protect their current jobs. Guy, for example, kills Dawn, which enables him to get a top work position in the company. The element of greed is also shown in the manner that Buddy patronizes and steals from his juniors. His failure to acknowledge positive results that are attributed to his employees and his decision to take responsibility for all good performances to himself portrays his greed for power and favor from his seniors (Kinicki 101). In particular, his desire to be acknowledged as a high-performing worker, even by falsely receiving praise, assures him of higher chances of getting promotions and privileges in the organization.
The movie interestingly illustrates the extent of unprofessionalism in most companies and how it can disrupt and undermine their performance. In particular, Buddy’s seduction of female employees can be regarded as sexual harassment since he uses his position to coerce them into being his lovers (Griffin 115). For example, although Dawn decides to romanticize with her boss, Buddy, based on the context of the film and their work relationship, it is apparent that she might have accepted his advances to get some employment favors. In fact, she is Guy’s girlfriend, and she often tells him that she is displeased with Buddy’s abrasive behavior. By definition, sexual harassment refers to forceful sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature (Griffin 102). Buddy also shows that he does not love Dawn when he asks Guy to kill her. This scene reveals that he did not like Dawn, rather, his sexual encounters with her were mainly to satisfy his selfish desires. Therefore, unprofessional relationships in firms lead to conflicts and inefficiencies in organizations since less qualified individuals are given authority over those who are more competent.
Huang makes an objective and detailed revelation of the thin line between mentorship and harassment. In the last scenes of the film, Buddy says that his aggressive behavior towards his juniors was a way of training. Additionally, he reveals that he experienced similar harassment during his early employment years where his tyrannical supervisors subjected him to a lot of humiliating acts. As a result, the poor training culture in the film industry is partly to blame for the emergence of bosses who are bullies. Equally important, the movie shows the importance of proper training in nurturing talent and fostering healthy relationships in an organization. The poor mentorship in the firm hardens Rex and makes him uncooperative. As for Guy, it makes him a bully, murderer, and manipulative. Therefore, the film implies that the cause of the rot in the movie industry is due to the wrong training methods.
Power and Manipulation
The final overarching theme in “Swimming With Sharks (1994)” is power and manipulation. This film is centered on power, and it shows that those who have it can do whatever they want. For example, Buddy sexually harasses his female employees and manipulates Rex and Guy because he is the boss. Similarly, once Guy abducts Buddy, he tortures, beats, and humiliates him. Interestingly, Buddy never reports this event but instead colludes with Guy when they are lying about the death of Dawn. An almost identical relationship can be seen in the business world where big companies exploit their customers, employees, and at times even government agencies. It is common for multinationals to violate various anti-monopoly laws or for chief executive officers (CEOs) to benefit from insider training (Kinicki 86). Therefore, the film illustrates that although it is illegal for persons in authority to coerce and exploit others, most of them violate these rules.
Huang, in the film “Swimming With Sharks (1994)” plays an important role of disclosing factors that affect an organization from achieving its full potential. In particular, he points out at the cases of sexual harassment, bullying, manipulation, and greed all of which lead to inefficient organizations. Consequently, the film presents valuable lessons that managers can use to establish cooperative and highly performing firms.
Griffin, Ricky. Management. 12th ed., South-Western College Pub., 2016.
Huang, George. “Swimming With Sharks.” YouTube, uploaded by Popcornflix, 5 April 2016, www.youtube.com/embed/U2IDA06eyRs?feature=oembed
Kinicki, Angelo. Management: A Practical Introductions. 6th ed., McGraw-Hill Education, 2012.
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