Maybe David Mamet ran into trouble in my neighborhood while he was growing up. Western Avenue, which is right down the way from my front door, is specifically checked over the course of Glenngary Glen Ross as being a place where, as a child, you’d be able to get a good education on the streets. That may well be true today – I can’t say that I’ve not seen gaggles of kids I’d just assume avoid strolling around. But when couched in terms of the film’s pervasively dreary Chicago, it would seem that Ed Harris’ character is angling at figuring his old stomping grounds for one of the tougher parts of town. Maybe I’m just a really intimidating guy, so no one messes with me.that can’t be true, though.
Either way, Mamet’s Broadway hit cum Hollywood is populated with a shocking list of insanely talented actors. Everyone from Kevin Spacey to Jack Lemon and Alec Baldwin are counted in the credits. But it’s obviously Mamet’s work that drew all that talent into this production.
I’ve not ever been privy to seeing a staged version of Glenngary Glen Ross, but the film version is somehow able to come off in such a manner as to ape the staging of a play. There’re a few outdoor scenes where the city gets a dreary make over and seems endlessly populated by noisome trains and the like. The only thing missing is the stench of urine that goes along with each one of those train stops.
Regardless, the narrative focuses on a real estate office helmed by Spacey. The situation is supposedly culled from the short time that Mamet spent working in a situation not too dissimilar from what was portrayed in his script. Obviously, there was a bit of artistic license taken, because, honestly, there’s no way such a roomful of personalities would have been able to exist for more than a few minutes. How many real life Al Pacinos are there? Probably not more than just a couple.
Taking all of these adeptly drawn characters and setting them within a do or die sales situation concludes with devious deals, theft and a handful of ill will shooting all over the place. Clocking in at an hour and forty odd minutes, for some features, could have posed a problem. But there aren’t too many other films with this cast, this writer and this director.