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Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
"Glengarry Glen Ross" follows in the footsteps of its politically controversial precedents, "Salesman", and "Death of a Salesman", as a tale that exposes, exploits, and analyzes the precarious position of a commission driven salesman. As the film quickly reveals, four desperate men will do almost anything to get their hands on the latest promising 'leads', the Glengarry Leads, that will almost certainly result in closed deals and ample commission for all. But with a hard-ass hotshot novice representative coming down on the salesmen's superior, the only thing the inept four are left with are a bunch of crap opportunities while the tempting Glengarry leads threaten to slip out of their hold. Over the course of one dark and stormy night each man will contemplate his own destiny and calculate the price tag necessary to completely abandon their already fragile moral platitudes.
Written by: David Mamet (play and screenplay).
Directed by: James Foley.
Tagline: It's a dog eat dog world in the life of a salesman.
Rated: R for thematic content, occasional language, and brief scenes of violent or offensive language.
It's a dark and stormy night in the suburbs of contemporary New York. Neon signs glare in the dark night, shining through the relentless downpour of cold, muggy, acid urban rainfall. Two men attempt to make frustratingly failed business calls from inside a local pay phone, to no avail. As the disgruntled men head to the loo in the local dive bar to discuss their latest professional predicament they run into their 'superior' John Williamson (Kevin Spacey). Upset with the lack of progress Dave Moss (Ed Harris) implores that John Williamson 'do his job' while the aged Shelley Lavine (Jack Lemmon) piques for knowledge of the allegedly promising 'Glengarry' leads. Joining their fellow employee George Aaronow (Alan Arkin), the three men head over to the office for a surprise meeting while one employee, the successful Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) stays and BS's with a local customer.
Back at the office Shelley tries to get a hold of his ailing daughter in the hospital to no avail. Not helping the situation is the introduction to the detestably smug and pernicious Blake (Alec Baldwin) who for a brief but memorable 5 minutes makes every man in the room hate his job, and his life. Throwing around his flashy Rolexes, bragging about his pricy sports cars, and spewing slanderous commentary directed individually at each employee, Shelley, Dave, and George sit and listen to a pompous novice threaten the security of their jobs. With one week to prove their worth the men will have to 'close out' their dated leads before they can move onto the bigger and better leads of the 'successful salesmen', like Roma.
Enraged, Dave and George head out to gossip about the latest personal affront, planning to do a little business first, while the desperate Shelley attempts to convince Williamson to hand over some decent leads. Although a seemingly successful bribe is in tact, Williamson forces Shelley to dance around his defiant banter while getting soaked in the rain-filled alleys of New York. At last the desperate Shelley is left with a bitter taste in his mouth, 2 useless leads, and no money to pay next month's bills.
As Shelley desperately races from pay phone to pay phone making 'business' calls at obscene hours of the night and contriving even more obscene lies to dress the situation properly for the shady company's sales techniques, Shelley is met with consistent failure. So too are the heated Dave and George finding no success as they repeatedly retire from the households of annoyed customers. Meanwhile, back at the local dive, Roma is doing his best to slyly mingle business with pleasure in hopes of sealing the deal with his latest prospect, the stranger, the highly lucrative Mr. James Lingk (Jonathan Pryce). From philosophical banter to random anecdotes on love and life, Roma clouds Lingk's head with liquor and BS, all the while stealthily moving in on his target.
But as Roma prepares to 'seal the deal' on his latest lead, George and Dave begrudgingly contemplate ways to abandon their crappy leads in exchange for more lucrative prospects as the type Roma frequently acquires from Williamson. A nefarious idea begins to manifest in Dave's head and he slyly pulls George into his plan by cunningly committing George, involuntarily, into his purported plan by means of making him an accomplice to the crime simply because George 'listened' to his story. Using his salesman tactics on his fellow employee, Dave convinces George to rob the office, stealing the Glengarry leads which are to be immediately sold off to another man for a quick cash profit. Unwilling to acquiesce to Dave's nefarious plans, George desperately searches for a way out while Dave insistently threatens to incriminate him if he refuses to cooperate; the perfect Catch 22. Meanwhile Shelley bounces from house to house, phone booth to phone booth, relentlessly working through the night.
Dawn breaks and as the four men stumble into the office they are each greeted with the surprising revelation that the office has been robbed. Much to everyone's demise, particularly Roma who just recently sealed the deal on Lingk's contract, the four men walk about in pontification and angst awaiting their fate. Not wanting any slacker's on the job, Williamson ironically hands the men more useless leads, which, in conjunction with an insulting interview by the police, provokes Dave into a rage-filled stormy exit from the office. Meanwhile Roma, George, and Shelley await interrogation. As George sits nervously by. the audience is half suspecting him to be the guilty perpetrator, half unsure, while the confident Roma walks staunchly around the office berating his insults to his incompetent boss and Shelley sits by with a desperate look on his face.
One by one the men will be interrogated. But first Roma has to address the precarious presence of his latest client, Mr. Lingk, whose visit to the office spells anything but good news. As Shelley leaps to his saving grace together he and Roma try to con Lingk into keeping the investment. But when the police officer requests Shelley by name to Lingk's surprise, as he suspected him to be someone else, and Williamson steps in and blows Roma's sale, fireworks ignite in the dog eat dog mayhem of the fragile office. As Lingk scurries out of the office with Roma insulting Williamson's ignorance, a loyal Shelley steps in to defend his coworker in a means to avenge Williamson's unjust treatment to himself the previous night. But as anyone knows, salesmen have big mouths, and in the myriad of contrivances and lies that makes up their sales pitch its only a matter of time before the truth eventually comes out. And for a salesman, the truth is never a good thing, unless you're Ricky Roma.
A screenplay adaptation of the Pulitzer winning play, "Glengarry Glen Ross" is a heart racing, head pounding whirl wind of one-liners, sales pitches, dirty deeds, undermining, conniving, and other visions of controversial professional tactics. It's 'all for one and one for one' in this world of greed, money, and relentless competition and pressure that provokes even the most moral of men to devolve into a selfish mercenary prospect only out for themselves and ready to undermine anyone and anything that gets in the way of their next commission check.
Like its groundbreaking precedents, "Death to a Salesman" and "Salesman", the film exposes the highly controversial lifestyle of the profession and it's less than noble moral sentiments. Mamet's screenplay, much like its original play script, is unparalleled in its vivid brilliance, its racy pace and its tension-evoking dialogue (prose) that screams of competition, greed, lust, manipulation, money, and most of all, lies. One after the next each man spews forth a list of contrived scenarios attempting to bamboozle the next helpless victim. Brilliantly Mamet creates the perfect script that illuminates the tenuous discrepancy between detesting these slimy men and their ruthless tactics, and pitying them for being helplessly dependent upon acquiescing to the requests of their superiors, at any cost, so as to support their families and pay the rent. A salesman relies on his sales speech and "Glengarry Glen Ross" bluntly exposes just how contrived and far from the truth that speech most often is.
Never was a more solid cast united for a production as Oscar winning actors mingle and banter their way through an intensely dark drama, almost black comedy, if you will. From Pacino's compelling performance as the intimidating yet straight-shooting, as straight as you can be in the profession, salesman, to Lemmon's portrayal of the aged and desperate salesman holding on by a thin thread, to Ed Harris's portrayal of the rebelliously cocky youth, to Alan Arkin's performace as the worrisome and contemplative salesman, the four men shine in their roles as victimized dirty scoundrels. Adding to the star power is the captivating performance of Kevin Spacey as the part ignorant, part inept, part desperate, yet iron-fisted and seemingly good intentioned boss, John Williamson. Though his hard-knuckled ways seem to screw his employees, so too does he adhere to the moral principles of his position, in a sense. Of course the most delightful, yet disarming performance was the brief cameo of Alec Baldwin as the odious Blake. Dancing across the screen in silk suit, gold watch, and slicked-back hair, Baldwin musters the energy and the slime necessary to portray the ultimate icon of the nefariously ruthless salesman.
A highly controversial and political film, "Glengarry Glen Ross" is a dizzying journey into the verbal chaos of a salesman life where, even in the off hours, he never fully abandons his sales pitch. "Glengarry Glen Ross" was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (Al Pacino). The film also received 3 other critical film awards including the Venice Film Festival Award for Best Actor (Jack Lemmon), the Valladolid International Film Festival Best Actor Award (Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, and Jonathan Pryce), and the National Board of Review, USA's Award for Best Actor (Jack Lemmon). The film also garnered another 3 critical film association nominations.
Jack Lemmon plays Shelley 'the Machine' Lavine, an aged salesman desperate to keep his job and pull enough cash to help his ailing daughter.
Al Pacino plays Ricky Roma, the ambivalently leading salesman whose calculating and triumphant sales tactics have garnered the, not altogether favorable, attention of fellow employees.
Alan Arkin plays George Aaronow, the overly nervous salesman.
Ed Harris plays Dave Moss, the begrudging salesman with a dirty plan.
Kevin Spacey plays John Williamson, the incompetent superior.
Alec Baldwin plays Blake, the odious representative of Mitch and Murray Inc.
Jonathan Pryce plays James Lingk, Roma's latest ambivalent sale whose investment promises a guaranteed first place in the monthly sales contest along with a new car.