“Oh, God, I hate this job,” George Aaronow mutters, the final line of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. The weariness and the previous twenty-four hours of degradation, though, fail to keep Aaronow from falling back in line, picking up the phone, and dialing for the most desperate of dollars. Indeed, the salesmen of Glengarry Glen Ross are endlessly outraged at how they’re treated, but they are not victims, only volunteers. And if Harry Hope’s saloon in The Iceman Cometh hints at a self-imposed male purgatory, then the real estate office of Premier Properties is most certainly hell.
The popular legacy of the James Foley-directed picture, which celebrates 20 years since its American release this month, has long leaned on the seven-plus minutes of Alec Baldwin, as Blake, a tornado of a man, mercilessly bullying the already prostrated sales force. The scene is terrific, and has become referenced and cited and aped to the point of self-parody. It’s hardly, though, what nudges us to revisit the picture, which is Mamet’s greatest cinematic achievement. Blake is certainly entertaining as an abusive huffer and puffer, but lest we forget he’s simply a device, one absent from the stage-play, created to zing the film into its Second Act. And Mamet does what’s required: He raises the stakes, with a visual pun, by cheekily raising a set of steak knives. It’s clever, and with the addition of this scene Mamet and Foley have created a nearly perfectly constructed film.