A Netflix Finds Review
Just a few weeks ago I reviewed Swimming with the Sharks, one of the best Kevin Spacey character films from the last 20 years. In that review, I referenced this very film, a far superior one, and lo and behold, Netflix adds it to the instant queue! Huzzah!
Glengarry Glen Ross will quite frankly - repulse - the weak stomached. It's a high stakes competitive sales game, and as you should know, the competitive sales world is swamp you don't want to get stuck in, if you don't know how to swim. Just like Swimming with the Sharks, it exposes a world that many were unfamiliar with. With an outstanding cast, Glengarry takes the audience through an intensely vulgar few days at a real estate office. The sink or swim mentality very much in effect, the salesman eagerly await new leads. Kevin Spacey takes a back seat, but still delivers a great performance, as John Williamson the manager of the office. He's stern, cold, but level headed. In the end, he may be one of the few decent (possibly) people in the whole film. One of the few you won't feel sorry for, but also won't hate.
Based off of David Mamet's play, Ross doesn't hold anything back, which is exactly why it's so poignant. In the competitive sales world you have few friends, and those friends you do have will likely cut your throat if it came down to you or more money. Their lives depend on the ability to sell sell sell. The team in Ross is broken down into tiers. The upper tier and front runner is Al Pacino, in an Oscar nominated role, as Ricky Roma - a smooth talking real estate agent who has never had a problem making a sale. The middle tier sees the strugglers but still sellers like Ed Harris, and then the bottom is unfortunately, the always lovable Jack Lemmon, who's jittery sad sap Shelley Levene was the inspiration for Matt Groening's Gil Gunderson on The Simpsons.
Polarizing characters altogether, the real estate agents in Ross effectively portray competitive sales so accurately that many car dealerships, real estate offices, and several other competitive sales jobs use the film in training. That's right, training. You walk into your first day on the job at some car dealership and they say "go home and watch Glengarry Glen Ross so you can learn HOW to sell... and how NOT to sell." As to who's methods they opt for you to learn is beyond me, but Ross' captivating nature comes from such die hard performances from the cast. There's not a single loose end here. The most memorable of which is Alec Baldwin, yeah The Shadow, erupting in a monologue to the office lowering every single agent to below dirt level - this highly quotable monologue resembles George C. Scott's from Patton. So powerful and critical, Baldwin delivers it like the professional he is (or used to be maybe).
Baldwin's speech instills fear in the office, disclosing that only the top two sellers will keep their jobs and have a crack at the Glengarry leads, a coveted set of leads that will be fresh and open multiple possibilities. Levene (Lemmon) has a sick daughter at home, and his once successful career has seen better days. His eyes set on the prize, it's a twisting and tension filled exploration of the sink or swim, every man for himself, only the strong survive mentality that motivates the power hungry. If you're looking to make money, be aggressive, and quite possibly lose your soul, look no further than Glengarry Glen Ross, by far one of the best films of the 1990s.
MPAA Rating: R for language.
Runtime: 100 mins.
Director: James Foley
Writer: David Mamet
Cast: Alec Baldwin; Al Pacino; Jack Lemmon; Ed Harris; Kevin Spacey
Tagline: A Story For Everyone Who Works For A Living..
Memorable Movie Quote: "Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Theatrical Release Date: September 29, 1992
Link to Netflix: Glengarry Glen Ross
Synopsis: Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin chew the words of David Mamet's script (based on his own stage play) as a group of Chicago real estate salesmen vying for the best "leads" at a small firm that sells property in resort areas.