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Glengarry Glen Ross
Written by David Mamet, and based on his play of the same name, director James Foley's 1992 film of Glengarry Glen Ross is set around the Brooklyn office of real estate company Premiere Properties. Blake (Alec Baldwin) runs the show, answering to the higher ups at the company's Manhattan location. He runs a very competitive ship, pitting agents against one another to get the highest sales for a month in order to win a new Cadillac. That's a nice price for whoever comes in first, of course, but whoever comes in last loses their job. Office manager John Williamson (Kevin Spacey), who has never held a sales job in his life, hands out leads as they come in, and he's not above playing favorites, resulting in an unfair playing field. The best leads he gets, the ‘Glengarry leads,' he only hands out to those performing the best, which further complicates things in the office.
The top salesman in the office is Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), but he knows his lead on the competition is tenuous at best, even if he is routinely the number one salesperson in the office. If he can get his client, James Lingk (Jonathan Pryce), to close on their latest deal that Cadillac is all but his. Not to be outdone, however, is Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), an aging salesman past his prime in many ways. Once in Ricky's top spot, his career has gone downhill over the years but he's desperate enough these days to do what it takes to win. He simply cannot afford to be let go if he comes in last, and so he starts schmoozing with John in order to get the best leads he can. George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) and Dave Moss (Ed Harris) are also competing for the car and the chance to keep their jobs, and they aren't above bending or even breaking the law to make that happen.
Expertly acted and frequently very tense, Glengarry Glen Ross is a pretty scathing, though not at all inaccurate, look at the high stakes world of sales Those who have worked as, or been around, real estate agents in particular will certainly get a feel for how realistically vitriolic Mamet's story is, as it pulls few punches, just like the real world that it is based on. This may sound like an unlikely candidate for a legitimately gr eat movie, but the characters here feel very real and the story twists and turns, building in its second half to a genuinely tense tale of human behavior and misguide machismo. It's fascinating stuff, often times both humorous and even unsettling.
Foley does a great job of taking Mamet's material and running with it, never over-directing but always ensuring that there is enough visual style on display to keep things looking interesting. It would have been easy for this film to have turned out as a ‘stagey' exercise in adapting a successful play, but Foley knows better than to simply rely on the quality of the source material with which he's working here. Cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchía keeps the fame exciting, and the use of primary colors in the film's lighting style helps to build suspense and atmosphere, not always easy for a movie set around an office space. Likewise, James Newton Howard's score compliments the highs and lows that the characters go through, adding to the tension and the drama quite nicely.
That said, it's the performances here that really hit home. Pacino is perfectly cast as Ricky Roma, an enthusiastic go-getter, a natural salesman with all of the slippery charisma you could hope for. Jack Lemmon has rarely been better than he is here, doing a wonderful job of bringing his increasingly desperate character to vivid life on the screen. Supporting work from Harris and Arkin is excellent, and Kevin Spacey is really solid here as well. Alec Baldwin may not get as much screen time as the other actors, but he most certainly makes the most of the limited time that he does get in the film, delivering a performance you won't soon forget.
Glengarry Glen Ross comes Blu-ray from Shout! Factory on 50GB discs in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. Taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative, detail looks great throughout, there's a lot of depth and texture to the image to take in. Skin tones look very nice as well and both color reproduction and black levels are strong throughout. There are a few instances of mild compression artifacts but no problems with any noise reduction or edge enhancement problems, the expected amount of fine grain is noticeable. All in all, this is a very strong picture, Shout! has done a great job here.
Audio options are provided in English language DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Master Audio tracks, with optional subtitles offered in English only. This isn't a particularly effects heavy film, it doesn't have loads of action scenes or anything like that, but the 5.1 mix does a nice job of spreading out background sounds and the film's score. Dialogue is clean and clear on both mixes and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note.
The first commentary on the disc comes from director James Foley. He covers his thoughts on the script, the origins of the story, casting the film, working with Pacino and Lemmon on the film, the cinematography, the location work, the themes and ideas explored in the film and lots more. The second commentary features actor Jack Lemmon. This obviously presents things from an actor's point of view, with Lemmon talking about his thoughts on his character, experiences he had alongside the other cast members, his thoughts on the picture and story that inspired it and lots more.
Shout! Factory has also included a host of featurettes here, starting with a thirty-seven-minute interview with James Foley that, understandably, covers some of the same ground as the commentary track. Regardless, he covers the importance of working with such an A-list cast at this point in his career, the specifics of working with Pacino in particular, his thoughts on David Mamet's script, casting the film, what it was like on the set and how smoothly the shoot went, working on location in New York City in the winter, how the film was marketed, how he feels about the movie these many years later and more.
God Bless Ricky Roma is a twenty-five-minute interview with Joe Mantegna where the storied actor speaks about how he got into acting first by doing live theater before then moving into film. It was in the theater scene that he met Mamet, a connection that worked in his favor when the stage version of GGR was cast years later. He also talks about how he had to figure out his character for the play, research that he did for the part, how he feels about his work here, the production itself and working with Mamet overall and quite a bit more.
The half-hour long Magic Time is an archival featurette from 2002 that covers the life and work of Jack Lemmon by way of interviews with Chris Lemmon, John Avildsen, Peter Gallagher, David Seltzer, James Lipton and James Foley. The interviewees speak very kindly and almost reverently of the storied actor, sharing some amusing and sometimes quite touching stories about their experiences wit him both personally and professionally.
The twenty-nine-minute Always Be Closing archival featurette, also from 2002, is an interesting look at the history of sales work over the decades in the American business world. Interviews with professional real estate agents give some welcome context to what we see in the movie, the pressures that they have to deal with and more. there's also talk here about how sales people have been depicted on the silver screen over the years, including in this movie.
Menus and chapter selection are also provided and the disc comes packaged with a slipcover and some reversible cover sleeve artwork.
You might not think a film based on a play based on the world of real estate sales would be a particularly engrossing picture, but Glengarry Glen Ross would prove you wrong. It's a tense, exciting and moving drama that contains some genuinely excellent performances and is a film very much worth seeing. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray release looks and sounds very good and contains some solid extra features as well. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.