Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce
Director: James Foley
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Studio: Artisan Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: November 19, 2002

“Your name is ‘you’re wanting,’ and you can't play the man's game, you can't close them, and then tell your wife your troubles. 'Cause only one thing counts in this world: GET THEM TO SIGN ON THE LINE WHICH IS DOTTED!”

Film ****

I know nothing about the business of selling real estate, but with one viewing of Glengarry Glen Ross, I know for sure that it’s one business that I will no doubt stay away from. There’s nothing really wrong or corrupting about the business, but the characters in this cutthroat underworld, all of which are very good at their jobs, are put into a compromising manner that will result in a challenging of their moral psyches. The truth is you don’t need to know anything about real estate to enjoy this film, which includes one of the most incredible and all around excellent cast of legendary actors using their individual acting chops at the highest level. Fans of the movie Boiler Room might recall that this was one of the movies it referenced to numerous times.

When you have names like Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin and Kevin Spacey above the title, you know right away that the outcome will be gratifyingly special, and boy is it ever. Some actors have more screen time than others, but each of the headlining actors has at least one or two moments that go down as striking and memorable. The movie is based on the award winning play by genius playwright David Mamet, who has adapted it himself for the screen, and takes place on two critical days in the lives of the veteran salesmen at Premiere Properties. They are all summoned to a spontaneous evening meeting by officer manager Williamson (Kevin Spacey) and a super-slick rival salesman from downtown named Blake, played by Alec Baldwin who with just one scene nearly steals the whole movie.

Blake is there to announce a new brutal sales contest where the first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado, second prize is a set of steak knives, and the third prize is being fired. He also presents them with a collection of sales leads to likely buyers of real estate, but they only go to ‘closers’, which the men of this office don’t necessarily merit the title of.  So now each of the determined salesman must close as many deals as they can in order to get a hold on the leads, which are called the Glengarry leads. Things get even more heated the next morning when the salesmen arrive to find the office robbed, and the new leads missing.

The characters in Glengarry Glen Ross are perhaps some the downright best that Mamet has ever created, along with that trademark Mamet dialogue. The late great Jack Lemmon ignites the screen in one of his most brilliant performances as Shelly “The Machine” Levine, a once great closer who hasn’t been so lucky lately and with a wife in the hospital, he seems the most determined of the group to meet the quota. Lemmon has a brilliant scene in the movie where he makes a house call to a guy who obviously does not want to purchase any real estate, and the salesman even acknowledges this while selling his heart out. Al Pacino is also in terrific top form as Ricky Roma, perhaps the company’s top salesman, who feels so hot and important that he doesn’t feel the need to show up at the big meeting. Ed Harris and Alan Arkin round out the cast as Dave and George, who spend a great deal of time talking after the meeting about a certain opportunity to go out on top, though not necessarily in the right way.

Glengarry Glen Ross has long been one of my favorite films of the 90s. The film is a pure triumph of acting, with a big time dynamite cast to boot. If there was ever an award created for Best Ensemble Cast of All Time, this would truly be a consideration. The words of Mamet and the talents of a cast of acting legends help make this a pure movie classic.

Video ***1/2

First off, I would like to send a big dose of thanks to the people at Artisan for getting this movie out on DVD. I have long had this title on a short list of movies that hadn’t made it to DVD, and this one has finally made it.

Artisan has done a most wonderful job in transferring this film. The anamorphic picture offers a much crisp viewing of the film. The movie is essentially a one-set movie, but it does occasionally break out of the office. A dimly lit sequence in a phone booth, used with killer blue lighting stands out as the best moment on the disc. A few shots come off as slightly soft, but they don’t even begin to distract from an superbly impressive disc.

The widescreen version is on Disc 1, while the unimportant pan & scan can be found on Disc 2.

Audio ***

Being this is a film adapted directly from a play, it’s safe to say that this movie is powered by dialogue and nothing more. True, but Artisan’s 5.1 audio mix does make terrific use of background noise and distinctive clarity. The dialogue is mastered, as well, sounding a whole lot better than on the VHS copy I used to own way, way back in the day.

Features ****

Artisan has delivered a superbly conceived two disc set that is much in the same vein as their 10 Year Anniversary release for Reservoir Dogs a few months ago. On Disc 1, there is a feature length commentary by director James Foley, and a Tribute to Jack Lemmon special.

Disc 2 includes several featurettes, including a documentary of real-life salesmen titled “A.B.C.-Always Be Closing”, a bonus commentary track by several cast & crew members, interview segments from The Charlie Rose Show and Inside the Actors’ Studio, cast and production notes.


Glengarry Glen Ross delivers it all in terms of monumental acting and story. 10 years after its release, it remains as gritty and hard-edged as ever.