David Mamet has to be given credit for writing the play that was used as the basis for this film. He originally planned for it to be a stage play, but he adapted it into a screenplay with some revisions in order to make this film. The director for the project was James Foley and he did a marvelous job.
The crew of the film is largely overshadowed by its A-List cast, including acting greats Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, and Alec Baldwin. The film centers on a real estate firm with four salesmen working for it. The salesmen consist of Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), Dave Moss (Ed Harris), and George Aaronow (Alan Arkin). Their manager is John Williamson, played by Kevin Spacey.
At the time we meet these characters, the real estate firm is in bad shape. Sales are down and a consultant has been called in to make a motivational speech. The consultant is Blake, played by Alec Baldwin. Blake delivers a fiery speech to the men and announces that the firm is having a sales contest where the first prize is a Cadillac, second prize is a set of steak knives, and the loser is fired.
The speech is not met with great happiness and we learn that Shelley, in particular, really needs his job because his daughter is deathly ill and in the hospital. Ricky Roma, the star salesman, doesn't seem phased and even skips the speech because he is busy making a high value sale. The other men seem more annoyed than anything, but Williamson shows no mercy and merely gives a smug expression when begged for it.
This is the beginning of what is one of the best films of all time. Almost all of the film takes place in this tiny office because the film is entirely dialogue driven. Don't expect to see any action scenes or fighting, but the film doesn't need these gimmicks to keep you interested and succeed. What we see are real people in a stressful situation, and the pathetic acts they sink to in order to survive.
The best thing about this film is the acting. I particularly enjoyed Jack Lemmon's performance, which goes from panic-stricken to smug to depressed in a roller coaster of emotions. We see him at his highest level of self-confidence, as well as at his lowest. Kevin Spacey also gives a great performance as the uncaring boss who doesn't care if his employees lose their jobs or worse. Al Pacino gives a fantastic performance as a subtle salesman who seduces his victims with casual talk, then leads them into buying land as an apparent tangent of their conversation. Alan Arkin seems a bit dull and mopey, but Ed Harris is very violent and hostile in this film. Lastly, Alec Baldwin's short and cold speech makes one of the best parts of the film.
The music in the film is only four different songs, mostly light jazz numbers. The music is only really played in the opening, closing, and transitional scenes, but it does set a somber mood, reflecting the desperate situation in the office.
This film has been criticized for excessive usage of obscenities, but when you watch the film it doesn't seem excessive. The basis of the film is these four men competing for the top sales, therefore there are a lot of conflicts. With conflicts come arguments, and of course harsh comments are going to be made along the way.
Overall, if you want to see acting at its best, you have to watch this film. It is one of the best pure dialog films ever made and features some of the greatest performances of all time. If you liked films like "Pulp Fiction" and "12 Angry Men", you will definitely enjoy this film. I award it 5 stars for cinematic perfection.