A ruthless boss sets his sales office a challenge with no rules and strange rewards
Handicapped by possibly the worst movie title of 1992, James Foley's Glengarry Glen Ross is that rare delight, a film that works even better on the small screen. Free from the need to be cinematic and out in the open air, the full claustrophobia of David Mamet's original stage work can once again be recaptured, the full intensity of the storyline reclaimed from Hollywood's better intentions. Mamet, as always, makes life difficult for those who would adapt his work for the screen, resolutely refusing to compromise on the overtly realistic dialogue - everybody says everything twice, a lot of it being the exact nonsense we spew forth every day - and spending more than 90 minutes ensuring that nothing really happens except for a lot of guys sitting around talking shite. But what wonderful guys, what memorable shite. First among equals has to be The Great Jack Lemmon, one minute the very definition of oily as smooth-talkin' Shelley Levine, the next giving a fair impression of a man on the edge of total desperation as he hopelessly tries to flog some worthless real estate to people who can't afford it in the first place. Quality support, not surprisingly, is provided in the shape of Pacino, Harris, Alda and Baldwin, the latter exploding onto the screen in a blistering cameo as the bully-boy brought in from head office to pep up the troops in his own inimitable way ("First prize is the Cadillac, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is ... you're fired"). So often miscast, Baldwin here uses his physical bulk and natural air of malevolence to terrific effect, producing his finest screen work in the process. Together, these poor bastards go about their soul-destroying way, gradually losing faith as each attempted deal falls through, each lead proves worthless. Pacino, the smartest by far, is also the hardest of the bunch, blatantly trying to rip off the hapless Jonathan Pryce, only to be accidentally foiled by clueless office manager Kevin Spacey, who in turn is dished out a genuinely shocking verbal assault from Pacino for his trouble.
A searing indictment of all sorts of American dreams, Glengarry Glen Ross is a welcome if foul-mouthed reminder of just what it takes for a lot of folk to make it through the working day.