Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Directed by James Foley
Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey
It seems a bit outrageous to think that Al Pacino (Dog Day Afternoon), Jack Lemmon (The Apartment), Alec Baldwin (The Departed), Alan Arkin (Grosse Pointe Blank), Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential), and Ed Harris (Apollo 13) all managed to be in the same film. In 1992 it happened when the Pulitzer Prize winning David Mamet play was brought to the big screen. The screenplay was also written by Mamet and directed by James Foley (Fear).
When Blake (Baldwin) shows up at Premier Properties, he’s there to set the tone and get the four salesmen in the office to produce. Soon the four men (Lemmon, Pacino, Arkin, and Baldwin) are on the hot seat. Their sales competition will leave one of them without a job. The next morning they arrive at the office to find that a new set of excellent leads have been stolen. Now the four of them are at odds with the office manager (Spacey) and the police, over the truth behind the theft.
This is not a heist movie, I have to be clear on that right away. This isn’t really a crime film, either. This is a movie about the reaction of people who are up against the wall in a high-stress environment. This movie brings out the spirit of the great American dramas like 12 Angry Men. The real drama doesn’t come from the facts, but from the emotions and the possibilities that exist within each of the men involved.
The movie is really driven by some powerful acting on the part of several people. Alec Baldwin brings the tone of the movie right where it needs to be as the corporate fixer. He manages to bring a level of disdain and disrespect to the room that really makes this movie work.
The performance of Al Pacino is equally great. He plays a somewhat successful, but definitely sleazy, salesman. He also manages to play his role with a different level of energy than I expected. There isn’t the anger he normally displays, this time it’s a mix of desperation and ambition.
The true star of the film has to be Lemmon. Sure, the other actors all do a wonderful job, but Jack Lemmon is the key. His performance as the aging and desperate salesman is one of the best performances of his incredible career. There is a depth to his emotions that radiates throughout the film.
None of this should be taken to mean that Harris, Spacey, and Arkin aren’t great. They’re really wonderful in this movie. They just didn’t have the shining moments that the men mentioned above had.
The 1993 awards season was a tough one, with Unforgiven, Scent of a Woman, and Malcolm X also in the mix. This is a movie that might have been missed by the critics during awards season, but it is worth every minute. This isn’t a movie for the kids though, the language is strong throughout the movie. I would definitely suggest this one to anyone who loves powerful dramas and ensemble casts. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.