Archive Review: Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) – 4/5 Stars


If Michael, Magic and Larry, etc. became the first ever “Dream Team” of basketball players in 1992, then the cast of the “Glengarry Glen Ross” should be considered the “Dream Team” of male acting. There’s Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Jonathan Pryce and Alec Baldwin. You won’t find seven better names in an opening credit sequence.

Together they make up the all-male cast of the film adaptation of David Mamet’s play and they lend it the sheer power that this exploration of human nature through the eyes of desperate salesmen might not have otherwise had.

It’s no surprise director James Foley was incredible wary of taking a story that clearly belongs on the stage and turning into into a film. “Glengarry” is dialogue-driven and there’s absolutely no physical action in the entire script, which takes place in less than 24 hours real time. It relies heavily on impassioned monologues and the morally ambiguous characters delivering them.

The film’s first major scene features an angry speech from Baldwin meant to fire up a group of slimy, foul-mouthed real-estate salesmen, explaining that whoever finishes top in sales wins a Cadillac and the loser gets fired. Firm boss Williamson (Spacey) hands the men tired leads and they complain that without the new Glengarry leads, they won’t sell a thing.

The highlight is a 66-year-old Jack Lemmon as Shelley Levene. I’m baffled at the fact that he received no Oscar nomination considering his status with the Academy. Levene is completely desperate: he works the old leads until he can’t anymore, tries to bribe Williamson for Glengarry leads and Lemmon absolutely nails the obnoxious salesman who always has some cheap maneuver in his back pocket. Instead, Pacino got the nomination as Ricky Roma, the hotshot salesman with a serious attitude. He’s excellent, but we’ve seen Pacino with that kind of command numerous times before.

“Glengarry” is a tough film, but Foley and this amazing cast sell you on it the best they can. The story leans on its characters, the talent playing them and the illustrative and attention- seizing monologues they deliver and it can lean away considering those aspects are like impervious steel. There’s no way the film could be handled any better. Foley gives maximum effort to provide the most compelling angles for the dialogue, shots that will reveal as much character as possible and stimulate audience thinking. Its very open-ended themes will connect with only a chunk of its viewers, but you have to admire the absolute power that this amassing of talent commands on the screen.

4/5 Stars

“Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992)
Directed by: James Foley
Written by: David Mamet
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey


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