Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Mamet, the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross follows the lives of some real-estate salesmen as they are pitted against one another in a fight to keep their jobs. It’s a rainy night, and the owners of Premiere Properties have called a meeting with their sales team in a New York City branch. Head Office representative Blake (Alec Baldwin) fires them all on the spot, informing them that they only have one week to reclaim their jobs. He announces a new sales initiative—whichever one of them has the most sales at the end of the month will receive a new Cadillac, the second prize is a set of steak knives, and third prize is “You’re Fired”. And if they want to survive, they need to “Always Be Closing”! The guys don’t take the news well, complaining that they are given the same worthless leads over and over again, making it impossible to close any deals. They want some of the company’s new Glengarry leads. However, Blake tells them these leads (as well as the free coffee in the office) are for closers, handing the stack of notecards to office manager John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) to lock away. If they can’t make a sale with the leads they’ve already been given, they might as well quit.
The salesmen aren’t too fond of their boss, John. He’s just a manager without any sales experience, so he couldn’t possibly know what they are dealing with. After Blake leaves, they try to convince him to give them some of the new Glengarry leads, but he also refuses. And so we follow these salesmen as they desperately try to talk their dud customers into investing in some worthless real-estate, deploying every despicable scam in the book. First there’s Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), who was once the star salesman of the office, but is now much older and unable to make a sale—you can feel the extreme desperation in every phone call he makes, and when he shows up at a potential client’s home uninvited. He’s also somewhat distracted, trying to deal with making arrangements for an ailing relative. Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He’s overly-confident and on a hot streak, easily on target to win the contest. He’s currently working his magic on a potential client (Jonathan Pryce) in the bar at a Chinese restauarant across from the office. Meanwhile, Blake’s insulting speech to the men was the last straw for Dave Moss (Ed Harris), who’s ready to jump ship to another firm. However, he has a not-so-legal idea of how to make some quick cash on the way out, and joins co-worker George Aaronow (Alan Arkin) on his sales call in order to try to convince him to help.
Glengarry Glen Ross feels very much like a 2-act play. It is completely dialogue-driven, with a very limited number of sets/locations and much of the film taking place in the sales office. After the initial meeting with Blake, there are three main scenes in the first act, each following a different subset of the guys—Ricky in the bar, Shelley making his calls or trying to convince John to help him, and Dave and Geroge complaining about their jobs and plotting their scheme. However, since this is a film and not a play, we cut back and forth between these three scenes. Between the acts there is a big event that takes place off camera, which becomes the focus of the second act. The second act takes place entirely in the office, and feels much more play-like, and like a well-choreographed dance, as characters weave in and out of the focus and conversation. While there isn’t really a whole lot of action in the film, I never found myself bored. It is an extremely well-acted and strong character study, with fast-paced, very specifically-crafted dialogue. (In the bonus material, it is even mentioned that every umm and uh you hear was written into the script.) The film is a fascinating look at the pressures these salesman are under, and the lows that they will stoop to as they are desperately trying to close or keep a sale.
While Alec Baldwin has many of the film’s most iconic and memorable lines (I was already familiar with many of them before watching this Blu-ray), Jack Lemmon is easily the standout of the movie for me. His performance is so captivating, making the viewer truly feel Shelley’s stress and desperation. As I watched the film, I actually grinned as I quickly realized that the character of “Gil” from The Simpsons is totally based off of Shelley Levene. While Gil’s desperation is played for laughs, there is much more of a palpable gloom in Lemmon’s performance. In the second act, we see a very different Shelley, but once again Lemmon knocks it out of the park. While the first act really showcases each of the actors on their own, the second act shows how they can all come together in this perfect, delicate dance around the office, which is quite masterfully acted and choreographed (for lack of a better word). Throughout the film there are some really well-written and delivered monologues, and an interesting and surprising turn of events in the second act.
Shout! Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray utilizes a new 4K transfer from the original camera negative, and the result looks amazing. This does not feel like a 30 year old movie. The picture looks crisp and clean, with a pleasant amount of film grain, and really showcases the film’s beautiful and unique cinematography. Each scene is meticulously composed in an artistic way, and the lighting and color looks perfect—whether it’s the earthy tones of the office, the neon red and blue glow as Shelley makes calls from the payphones outside the Chinese restaurant, or the dark and rainy night as Dave and George drive to see a potential client. This is a very dialogue-driven film, so there isn’t much to note about the audio presentation. The dialogue is clear, and the film’s jazzy score blends nicely into the background. In the first act, it is constantly raining, so the surround channel is utilized to make the viewer feel like they are in the midst of this pouring rain as well.
Shout! Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray ports over a good portion of the existing bonus material from past releases and adds some new features. New to this release are extensive interviews with director James Foley and actor Joe Mantegna (who won a Tony for playing Ricky Roma on Broadway). The release also ports over audio commentaries by director James Foley and star Jack Lemmon (the latter had previously only been available on the Laserdisc release), as well as a documentary about salespeople and a tribute to Jack Lemmon. Missing from previous home video releases are the Laserdisc audio commentary track by the director, scene-specific audio commentary with actors Alec Baldwin & Alan Arkin, cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchía & production designer Jane Musky (even though this is listed in the features on the Shout! Factory site), and some archival clips of “J Roy: New and Used Furniture”, Jack Lemmon on The Charlie Rose Show, and Kevin Spacey on Inside the Actor’s Studio (it’s pretty safe to assume why this last one was left off). It’s a shame that the other commentary clips/tracks weren’t included. So those who own previous versions of this film may want to hold onto them if picking up this release for the picture upgrade.
The disc comes packed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a slipcover. Like many other Shout Select releases, the insert inside the cover is reversible, giving the viewer a choice in how to display this title in their collection. The alternate view for this title can be seen below:
- 1080p / Widescreen 2.35:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Audio Commentary by James Foley (1:40:26)
Originally created for the 10th anniversary DVD release, director James Foley provides a fun, interesting and informative behind-the-scenes discussion about the script, casting and working with the actors, the filming locations, and more.
- Audio Commentary by Jack Lemmon (1:40:26)
Originally created for the 1994 Laserdisc release, the star of the film provides his thoughts on the story, his character, working with the rest of the cast, and more.
- A Conversation With Director James Foley (37:23)
In this brand new retrospective interview, director James Foley looks back on the film. He talks about how he got involved with the film, working with Al Pacino, casting the movie, the filming locations, the look of the film, the editing process, the score, and more. Some of the stories he shares are similar to those in the audio commentary.
- God Bless Ricky Roma (24:31)
In this brand new feature, actor Joe Mantegna, who played “Ricky Roma” on Broadway talks about his stage career, working with David Mamet, playing this role, his opening-night mistake, his Tony win, and more.
- A.B.C. “Always Be Closing” (29:59)
In this documentary screenwriters, actors and real-life salespeople share their own stories and tricks of the trade, and talk about making cold calls, the depiction and use of salespeople in works such as “Death of a Salesman” (1947), “Salesmen” (1965), the 1983 stage production of “Glengarry Glen Ross”, “Tin Men” (1987), “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1993), and more. Originally created for the 10th anniversary DVD release.
- Magic Time: A Tribute To Jack Lemmon (30:05)
Jack Lemmon’s friends and family share stories about the legendary actor. Includes interviews with the actor’s son Chris, actor Peter Gallagher (The Long Day’s Journey Into Night), director John Avildsen (Save the Tiger), manager David Seltzer, director James Foley, and James Lipton (Inside the Actor’s Studio). Finishes with a clip of Jack Lemmon answering James Lipton’s famous questionnaire on Inside the Actor’s Studio. Originally created for the 10th anniversary DVD release.
Glengarry Glen Ross is a captivating film with an all-star cast, who deliver some truly excellent performances. It feels very much like a two act play brought to life on the big screen. Fans of the film should really appreciate Shout! Factory’s pristine new transfer that looks amazing. The release ports over some great bonus material from previous releases and adds a pair of interesting new interviews. However, those who already own previous releases may want to hold onto them as some of the old bonus material has not been ported over. The release comes Highly Recommended based on the quality of the film/performances and technical presentation.