In 16th century Venice, when a merchant must default on a large loan from an abused Jewish moneylender for a friend with romantic ambitions, the bitterly vengeful creditor demands a gruesome payment instead.
Times are tough in a Chicago real-estate office; the salesmen (Shelley Levene, Ricky Roma, Dave Moss, and George Aaronow) are given a strong incentive by Blake to succeed in a sales contest. The prizes? First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is the sack! There is no room for losers in this dramatically masculine world; only "closers" will get the good sales leads. There is a lot of pressure to succeed, so a robbery is committed which has unforeseen consequences for all the characters. Written by
Patrick Dominick <firstname.lastname@example.org>
None of the major roles in the film were auditioned - the actors playing the parts were all offered their roles, although Jack Lemmon has said he would have been glad to audition for such a good role. See more »
Shadow of camera crew visible on the train in the closing shot. See more »
Those who must rely on their wits to make a living are often prone to desperate measures born of the insecurities inherent in their field of endeavor-- a straight commission salesman, for example; or in this instance, a real estate salesman, in particular. And under pressure, to what will one in such a position resort to stay afloat when times are tough? A legitimate question that every consumer would no doubt like to have answered before signing the dotted line and committing some big money to a purchase. Well, hold tight, because help is on the way, as writer/director David Mamet goes to great lengths to answer it in `Glengarry Glen Ross,' an unflinching, hard-edged film that examines the motivations of those who would readily and eagerly separate you from more than a few of your hard earned dollars, and whose least concern, apparently, is the value of their product or that parcel of land, which according to them is situated just this side of Shangri-la. And if you've ever trusted a big-ticket salesman in your life, after visiting Mamet's film, it's doubtful you ever will again.
Very simply, the story is this: The Company wants results; the hierarchy expects their salesmen to produce, and they don't care how. Toward that end, a `motivator' (Alec Baldwin), has been dispatched to this particular office to put things into perspective for those who would sell their wares, as it were. The deal is, that at the end of a given period of time, the salesman whose name is at the top of the tote board will get a new car; those who fail to meet their quota are out the door. End of story. They will, however, be supplied with `leads,' but from the `old' file. The new, `fresh' leads are reserved for those who first prove themselves worthy, those who can do whatever it takes to make the sale, without qualm, reservation or conscience. But the prospect of being put on the street in the wake of the give-no-quarter edict only serves to drive one amongst them to an act of desperation-- an irrational act from which there can be no forgiveness and no redemption. A tough verdict, but then again, nobody said life was going to be easy.
In adapting his own play for the screen, Mamet returns to one of his favorite themes by exploring yet another variation of the `con' forever being perpetrated somewhere, on someone, in one way or another. In Mamet's world (in films such as `House of Games' and the more recent `Heist') nothing is ever as it seems, and the confidence game is always afoot, the causes and effects of which make up the drama of his stories. And this film is no exception. Whether it's the smooth and savvy top-dog of the office, Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), schmoozing a client into handing over a check, or a veteran loser like Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon) showing up at someone's door on a cold call at a most inopportune and inconvenient moment and refusing to leave, Mamet convincingly maintains that the con-is-always-on, and the result-- especially in this film-- is a bleak, but riveting commentary on the human condition, delivered with an intensity that will keep you on the very edge of your emotional seat right up to the end.
The cast Mamet assembled for this offering is superb: Al Pacino is in top form and extremely effective with a comparatively tempered performance; the scene in which he lulls his customer (played by Jonathan Pryce) into complacency is absolutely hypnotic. This is the salesman you hope you never encounter, especially if something like the Brooklyn Bridge is being offered, as such overtures as those proffered by Ricky Roma are just too hard to refuse. And Pacino not only sells it, he closes the deal, as well.
Ed Harris, as Dave Moss, is outstanding, also, creating a character whose bitterness seems to flow from the inside out, and has long since overwhelmed that ability and better part of himself that could've made him a successful salesman, had he but turned his energies to more positive concerns and away from the self-defeating, self-pity into which he has descended. While at the opposite end of the spectrum is George, played by Alan Arkin, who unlike Dave (who though unable to act upon it, at least had promise at some point in his career) has nothing but insecurity and empty dreams to sustain him. As wonderfully realized by Arkin, he's the proverbial duck-out-of-water, who belongs anywhere except in a job as a salesman.
The best performance of all, however, is turned in by Jack Lemmon, who in Shelley Levene creates a character so steeped in despair and hopelessness that's it's almost tangible. You have but to look into Lemmon's eyes to understand the turmoil and depth of Shelley's desperation, and Lemmon successfully conveys the complexities of this man in terms that are believable and incredibly real. He makes Shelley a guy you can feel for without necessarily sympathizing with him. It's simply a terrific piece of work by a terrific actor.
Another of the film's strengths is the performance by Kevin Spacey, as John Williamson, the office manager. It's an understated, but pivotal role, and Spacey does a good job of making it convincing, which ultimately heightens the overall impact of the film, especially the climax.
The supporting cast includes Bruce Altman (Mr. Spannel), Jude Ciccoledda (Detective) and Paul Butler (Policeman). Mamet builds and sustains a tension throughout this film that drives the anxiety level through the roof; at times, it's exhausting to watch. In the end, however, `Glengarry Glen Ross' is a satisfying experience, involving very real situations with which many in the audience will be able to relate, and delivered with a high-powered energy equal to the subject matter. And once you catch your breath, it's one you're going to appreciate even more. It's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 9/10.
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