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GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (director: James Foley; screenwriter: from a play by David Mamet/David Mamet; cinematographer: Juan Ruiz Anchia; editor: Howard Smith; music: James Newton; cast: Al Pacino (Ricky Roma), Jack Lemmon (Shelley Levene), Alec Baldwin (Blake), Alan Arkin (George Aaronow), Ed Harris (David Moss), Kevin Spacey (John Williamson), Jonathan Pryce (James Lingk),Bruce Altman (Mr. Spannel), Jude Ciccoledda (Detective), Paul Butler (Policeman); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jerry Tokofsky/Stanley Zupnik; Artisan Entertainement; 1992)
As you would expect from a Mamet play, the dialogue sizzles.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A superb black comedy adapted by David Mamet from his own hard-hitting 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross. Director James Foley (“At Close Range”/”After Dark, My Sweet”/”Fear”)can’t make the stage play cinema friendly (too claustrophobic), but he gets amazingly great performances from his talented ensemble cast.The cynical story, framed around desperate real-estate salesmen threatened with loss of their livelihood, rails against the harshness and unfairness of the capitalist system that sets the bosses against the workers and the workers against their clients in a medieval-like competition for survival of the fittest. Even though less powerful than on stage, where it belongs, this well-acted crisp production still makes waves and is gripping while keeping intact the brilliance of the play’s theme that we have become too materialistic, too greedy and too spiritually bankrupt.

John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) is the smarmy office manager of a small real estate firm operating in a shabby office in Chicago’s North Side and selling ‘swampland’ resort properties with fancy names like Glenngary Glen Ross and Rio Rancho. The big bosses (Mitch and Murray) from downtown are unhappy with results from sales and send as their representative hotshot–the boastful, heartless executive named Blake (Alec Baldwin) to give the four underachieving salesmen a wicked pep talk. He talks down to them and takes pleasure in insulting them and gets across his message that “it takes brass balls to sell real-estate.” They’re told in no uncertain terms that they will be evaluated for a month on their sales, the winner gets a Cadillac, second place earns a set of steak knives and the other two salesmen get fired.

The four salesmen: Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), the elderly former legendary salesman past his prime who embarrassingly pleads for getting a break for old time’s sake; Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) is top dog at the firm and is a cocky slick operator on a hot streak; David Moss (Ed Harris) is a hot-head and frustrated by the company’s policy of giving him bum leads and George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) is disillusioned with himself.

The salesmen complain about being treated like dirt and not getting good leads (list of prospective clients) from the company, and therefore are hampered in fulfilling the company’s goal to “always be closing.” Blake leaves with John the company’s prize leads and says only the top closer will get these leads.That night someone steals the valuable leads from the office and the contract signed in a bar pickup by a sucker client (Jonathan Pryce) of Roma’s. The stressed-out salesmen become only more stressed, as the burglar sells the leads to a rival.

As you would expect from a Mamet play, the dialogue sizzles.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”