Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)


Glengarry Glen Ross is a 1992 independent dramatic film, adapted by David Mamet from his acclaimed 1984 Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning play of the same name. The film depicts two days in the lives of four real estate salesmen and how they become desperate when the corporate office sends a representative to "motivate" them by announcing that, in one week, all except the top two salesmen will be fired. The film, like the play, is notorious for its use of profanity, leading the cast to jokingly refer to the film as "Death of a Fuckin' Salesman". The actual title of the film comes from the names of two of the real estate developments being peddled by the salesmen characters (Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms). Glengarry Glen Ross had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival where Jack Lemmon won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor. The film was not a commercial success, only making $10.7 million in North America, just below its $12.5 million budget. It was critically well-received with highly positive reviews by most of the major critics. Al Pacino was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the film.


The film depicts two days in the lives of four real estate salesmen who are supplied with names and phone numbers of leads (potential clients) and regularly use underhanded and dishonest tactics to make sales. Many of the leads rationed out by the office manager are impoverished individuals lacking either the money or the desire to actually invest in land. Blake (Alec Baldwin) is sent by Mitch and Murray (the faceless owners of the real estate office in which the main characters work) to motivate the salesmen. Blake unleashes a torrent of verbal abuse on the men and announces that only the top two sellers will be allowed access to the more promising Glengarry leads and the rest of them will be fired. Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), a salesman in a long running slump with a sick daughter, knows that he will lose his job soon if he cannot generate sales. He tries to convince office manager John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) to give him some of the Glengarry leads, but Williamson refuses. Levene tries first to charm Williamson, then to threaten him, and finally to bribe him. Williamson is willing to sell some of the prime leads, but demands cash in advance. Levene cannot come up with the cash and leaves without any good leads. Dave Moss (Ed Harris) and George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) complain about Mitch and Murray, and Moss proposes that they strike back at the two by stealing all the Glengarry leads and selling them to a competing real estate agency. Moss's plan requires Aaronow to break into the office, stage a burglary and steal all of the prime leads. Aaronow wants no part of the plan, but Moss tries to coerce him, saying that Aaronow is already an accomplice simply because he knows about the proposed burglary. Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), the office's top "closer," delivers a long, disjointed but compelling monologue to a meek, middle-aged man named James Lingk (Jonathan Pryce). Roma does not broach the subject of a real estate deal until he has completely won Lingk over with his speech. Framing it as being an opportunity rather than a purchase, Roma plays upon Lingk's feelings of insecurity. As the salesmen come into work the following day they find the office has been burgled and the Glengarry leads have been stolen. Williamson and the police question each of the salesmen in private. After his interrogation, Moss leaves in disgust, only after having one explosive last shouting match with Roma. During the cycle of interrogations, Lingk arrives to tell Roma that his wife has told him to cancel the deal. Scrambling to salvage the deal, Roma tries to deceive Lingk by telling him that the check he wrote the night before has yet to be cashed, and that accordingly he has time to reason with his wife and reconsider. Levene abets Roma by pretending to be a wealthy investor and friend of Roma's who just happens to be on his way to the airport. Williamson, unaware of Roma and Levene's stalling tactic, lies to Lingk, claiming that he already deposited his check in the bank. Upset, Lingk rushes out of the office, threatening to contact the State's Attorney, and Roma berates Williamson for what he has done. Roma then enters Williamson's office to take his turn being interrogated by the police. Levene, proud of an unlikely sale he made that morning, takes the opportunity to mock Williamson in private. In his zeal to get back at Williamson, Levene carelessly reveals that he knows Williamson left Lingk's check on his desk and did not make the bank run the previous night – something only the man who broke into the office would know. Williamson catches Levene's slip-of-the-tongue quickly and compels Levene to admit that he broke into the office. Levene eventually breaks down and admits that he and Moss conspired to steal the leads to sell to a competitor. Levene attempts to bribe Williamson with a large portion of all his future sales in exchange for keeping quiet about the burglary. Williamson scoffs at the suggestion and tells Levene that the buyers to whom he made his sale earlier that day, Bruce & Harriet Nyborg, are in fact impoverished and deluded and just enjoy talking to salesmen. Levene, crushed by this revelation, asks Williamson why he seeks to ruin him. Williamson coldly responds "Because I don't like you." Levene makes a last ditch attempt at gaining sympathy from Williamson by mentioning his sick daughter, but Williamson cruelly rebuffs him and leaves to inform the detective about Levene's part in the burglary. Unaware of Levene's guilt, Roma walks out of the office for lunch and talks to Levene about forming a business partnership before the detective starts calling for Levene. The film ends as Levene walks, defeated, into Williamson's office where the police are waiting.