According to Rick, he used to be a nice guy. That was before he became a corporate shark. Not by design, but out of necessity. Company cutbacks. Survival of the fittest. Become the reaper instead of the reaped.

It doesn’t help that Rick, a middle-aged single father with a beautiful, blossoming daughter has to report to Duke, a boss half his age. Feared by most, humiliated by his superior, Rick has some tough decisions to make.

Directed by former Gus Van Sant editor Curtiss Clayton, Rick is a fractured fairy, morality and cautionary tale. Rick wants his soul back. He misses the man he used to be, the person who earned respect out of sincerity rather than fear. Writer Daniel Handler wisely sets Rick during the Christmas season, where these modern day Scrooges’ revel in their mean spirited pettiness, aware that their actions leave a toxic stain on everyone and everything they come in contact with.

Even the holiday music has a cautionary timbre, musical cues preparing us for what will undoubtedly become a sobering experience. When we first meet Rick, he’s commanding the halls of Image, receiving obligatory greetings as he struts to his office.

His first bit of business, an interview with a woman named Michelle (Sandra Oh), immediately sets the tone for what is to follow. Callous, inconsiderate, insensitive and just downright cruel, Rick not only puts Michelle (he gets both her name and nationality wrong) in her place, he decimates her.

Pullman easily convinces us that Rick is a jerk, carefully sharpening every line as if it were an arrow anxious to penetrate an opponent’s heart. He also reassures us that there is something in Rick worth saving, a glimmer of a decent man who understands that his arrogant alter ego is winning. The desperation in Pullman’s actions, especially when he becomes his own worst enemy, makes Rick powerful and compelling.

You can’t blame Rick for hating his boss, a smarmy punk who gives nepotism a bad name. Aaron Stanford perfectly embodies the soulless shell of Duke, whose cocky conviction is likely a substitute for small genitalia. He’s probably a big dick in the bedroom, but not in a good way. After learning the identity of his latest target, even we feel compelled to stop him.

Which is what Rick does after meeting a mysterious man (Dylan Baker) in a private bar who claims to have the solution to all his problems. The man runs his own company (it says so on his business card), a disposal service that specializes in corporate rats.

Even though the plot is straightforward, writer Handler allows the characters to take us in unexpected directions. Behind the camera, director Clayton perfectly frames his actors and trusts their interpretations. The end product is a tightly wound black comedy.

Swimming With Sharks

Corporate Creeps Chum Choppy Seas


Bill Pullman, Aaron Stanford, Agnes Bruckner, Sandra Oh, Dylan Baker. Directed by Curtiss Clayton. Rated R. 93 Minutes.


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