Glengarry Glen Ross

(James Foley, USA, 1992)


Glengarry Glen Ross comes with impressive credits: adapted by David Mamet from his play, on his favourite subject of men in crisis and in lethal competition; directed by the superb stylist James Foley (Reckless, 1984); acted by a knockout ensemble including Al Pacino, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin.

Sticking largely to the theatrical nature of the original, the film offers a stark account of the disintegration of a team of real estate salesmen as they ruthlessly compete for the corporate brass ring.

Much of the film is absorbing in its delineation of the characters and the fault lines of their psychological power struggles – particularly Pacino’s slippery relation to a hapless client played by Jonathan Pryce. Yet it is ultimately a dissatisfying, strangely old-fashioned affair.

Mamet’s critique of masculine role playing has a jaded, 1950s feel to it, recalling The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956) or Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, but never attaining the vividness of either Scorsese’s films or even the classic Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

Jack Lemmon’s fidgety, bombastic performance certainly does not help Mamet’s dramatic portrait reach modernity. And the mystery element of the plot, revolving around an unseen office burglary, is simplistic to the point of superfluousness.

Those who delight in seeing masculinity in its animalistic death throes would be better served by contemporaneous dramas like Reservoir Dogs (1992) or Bad Lieutenant (1992).

MORE Foley: The Chamber, The Corruptor, Fear, At Close Range

MORE Mamet: The Winslow Boy, State and Main

© Adrian Martin July 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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