Glengarry Glen Ross

Directed By: James Foley

Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, and Jonathan Pryce

"You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is."
-Ricky Roma (Al Pacino)

The gift of gab is a rare treasure, one that even few movie stars have.  For the most part, the all-time greats are the only ones with this gift.    They're those actors who can have monologues that go on and on, and yet we don't want them to stop.  You may think that most stars have this talent, but I have to disagree.  Most actors get annoying very quickly if they're the only one in a conversation on camera.  Everyone can't be Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, or Jack Nicholson.  It's rare to have even just two actors with this gift in the same film.  That being said, the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross brings a whole bunch of them together.  Director James Foley needs a sales force.

John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) manages a real estate sales office and must endure the tough task of rationing out leads and galvanizing his sales force.  Because his team has not been closing a lot of sales as of late, he's forced to withhold the premium Glengarry leads and must give them poor, outdated leads.  Any contact referenced in the poorer leads is either not interested in making a real estate investment or simply can't afford to do so.  At the present, the only team member closing enough sales to gain access to the Glengarry leads is Ricky Roma (Pacino), who is on a hot streak as of late.  The rest of the team — Shelley "The Machine" Levene (Jack Lemmon), Dave Moss (Ed Harris), and George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) — are just going to have to fend for themselves.

Mitch and Murray, the executives of this real estate company, are not too happy with the recent sales figures coming from Williamson's office.  They deploy closer Blake (Alec Baldwin) to the office to launch a sales contest.  Blake introduces the motley sales force to the competition whereby the employee that closes the most sales during the contest will win a Cadillac.  The salesman in second place will win a set of steak knives.  The top two closers will also gain access to the premium Glengarry leads.  Everyone else will be fired.  With this in mind, a frantic scramble begins to make some sales, and everyone is trying to find a way to get access to the Glengarry leads prematurely to gain an advantage in this sales bloodbath.

Glengarry Glen Ross features an all-star cast with some of the all-time greats in the acting game.  Pacino, Lemmon, Spacey, Harris, Arkin, and Baldwin each bring the same great thing to the film as salesmen for Mitch and Murray — the gift of gab.  Based on the acclaimed play by David Damet, the film is all about the dialogue between these characters — its rhythm, tempo, and tone.  It's evident in the back-and-forth rhythm of conversations between Harris's Moss and Arkin's Aaronow that build into a furious flurry of words.  It's evident in the tense conversations between Lemmon's Levene and Spacey's Williamson during which the tempo could go from the slow trade of a few barbs to the rapid firing of insults from both sides.  Finally, it's evident in any conversation with Pacino's Ricky Roma; a chat with him can quickly transition from a casual tone to a caustic one.

These extraordinarily talented actors really show how the dialogue between characters can make or break a film.  With a host of magnificent performances, this cast really gives us a healthy dose of some world-class acting.  Inevitably, there are always standouts even with an ensemble of this stellar magnitude.  For Glengarry Glen Ross, those two standouts are the living legend Al Pacino and the late great Jack Lemmon. 

As Ricky Roma, Al Pacino gives us a slick-talking salesman or a devilishly irate nutcase.  Either way, he steals quite a few scenes throughout the film as he gives his amoral take on the world.  As Shelley "The Machine" Levene, Lemmon is the heart and soul of Glengarry Glen Ross.  In the face of Kevin Spacey's cold, heartless John Williamson, Lemmon showcases his incredible acting range.  In a single scene, he can and does deliver a host of dispositions—ambition, rage, egotism, desperation, and even regret.  The impressive part is that Lemmon is able to take us along on his character's emotional rollercoaster.  In arguably one of his last truly great performances, Lemmon brings the house down and shines brighter than any other cast member.

It's unfortunate that Glengarry Glen Ross never got the attention it deserved. Twenty years later, it still remains a lovable yet hidden gem.  With great performances from all involved and a strong guiding hand from director James Foley, this dark, grim film delivers loads of commentary on the workplace and the ABCs of sales.  It takes a huge set of "brass balls" to say what this film had to say about what happens at the office.  Glengarry Glen Ross wholeheartedly gets a sober rating.  If you have some free time, pull this modern classic out of the vault and check it out.