Glengarry Glen Ross

Directed by James Foley. Starring Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey. (1992, R, 100 min.)

REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., Oct. 9, 1992

Caught in hell, four men, salesmen, twist and turn on their spits, longing for the right leads, for the one sale that will redeem them. Shuttling back and forth between their dismal office and a Chinese restaurant across the street, moving from phone to phone, they are desperate, perverted lovers wooing disinterested prospects with all the guile and cunning of rapists. Their predatoriness is mitigated only by their own status as victims at the mercy of the head office and a mean, soulless functionary played by Spacey. Pacino, Arkin, Harris, and Lemmon are the salesmen, taking David Mamet's play and screenplay that is an actor's dream and running away with it in ways that very well could have kept director Foley up nights. Pacino is amazing in the role of Ricky Roma, top dog salesman. He combines uncharacteristic control with just the right amount of fireworks. It's good to be reminded what he can do if he really wants to. And he really wants to here. As the other characters bitch, wail, moan and berate their beleaguered prospects, Roma sings his love song to a helpless client in counterpoint. Lemmon, too, shows a little more discipline than usual as Levene the machine, a worn-out old loser who'd do anything for a sale but who really can't get it up anymore. Whether it's Lemmon, the direction, or the role, he doesn't seem to be working the same side of the street as the other guys. He's not singing in harmony with Arkin and Harris who are steady and sure in their roles. Arkin's sad salesman, like Levene, is old and worn out. Harris is enraged by the inequities of his life, but he's no less impotent. The imbalance is not helped by the addition of Baldwin's character to the movie version. He appears for one scene as a big wheel from the head office, a strutting rooster, sent to preach the gospel of selling to the poor losers in this forgotten branch office. In fact, it's hard to pinpoint exactly where Glengarry Glen Ross fails. Part of the problem seems to lie in the pacing. Foley is sometimes too literal, cutting between actors as they deliver their lines in Mamet's patented call and response, and other times seeming to be elsewhere when the actors really need his camera's attention. Glengarry Glen Ross is interesting to watch like well-performed gymnastics but it never really connects. There are great performances here and we'll see Academy Award nominations, but to succumb to one more cheap sexual metaphor, Glengarry Glen Ross never gets us off.

More James Foley Films
Fifty Shades Darker
Oh bondage, I'm yours!

Josh Kupecki, Feb. 17, 2017

Perfect Stranger
The fishy smell that permeates Perfect Stranger comes from all of the red herrings flopping around this absurdly plotted Hollywood thriller.

Steve Davis, April 20, 2007

More by Kathleen Maher
Love in the Nineties: no drugs and the sex is scary. Actually, Cameron Crowe documents the habits of a generation that adapted.

Sept. 25, 1992

Incident at Oglala
British filmmaker Apted makes a carefully reasoned, yet passionate statement about the legal system that has ensnared American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier.

July 10, 1992


Glengarry Glen Ross, James Foley, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey

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