Call this movie another impromptu Netflix streaming event for my husband and I. I guess I always thought it was political in nature (not sure why) so I avoided it. I get enough political headaches in real life living in Florida. But as we scrolled through the options one night, we lingered on the cast of this one...holy cow. Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin...really?
As normal, before the movie was fully booted up, I did a little research on IMdB and Wiki, and learned a few interesting things. The movie was based on a Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning play that ran in 1984. The movie is notorious for it's foul language, so much that the cast, amongst themselves, called the movie "Death of a F-ing Salesman". (For the record, 138 f-bombs, or number 45 on the list of most f-bomb movies.) It didn't experience much commercial success, but the critics loved it, and Al Pacino was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his role.
Alrighty then! That was just enough fun to spark my interest. The overall premise is pretty simple. We are shown, over a period of two days, the lives of four men selling questionable real estate, scrapping and schticking innocent "victims" to invest. They are stressed, exhausted, and working all hours of the day and night. The heat is cranked up a notch or two when a trainer from corporate (Baldwin) comes in to motivate them to try harder, and announces that in another week all but the top two salesmen are going to get pink slips.
The office becomes a total pressure cooker, ready to blow. Personalities start to emerge, some of the salesmen get desperate to save their jobs, and turn to less than upstanding measures to do so. This is where the acting kicks in and gets gritty. Al Pacino, who plays the office's top deal "closer", is smooth, a dangerous, volatile player. He is SUCH a pleasure to watch. I've been on a bit of a Pacino kick lately.
Another salesman (Arkin) seems to accept his doomed fate with tired resignation, and wants little to do with the shenanigans. The other two (Lemmon and Harris) start to spin out of control...you can literally see their wires frying.
So the movie isn't so much an action flick as much as it is a display of acting talent, thespians strutting their stuff and flexing their muscles. All at once! All of that mojo oozing and commingling on the same screen. Good stuff. But I can totally understand why this was not a blockbuster, a crowd-pleaser. Not everybody's going to like the profanity, or the lack of car chases, or the lack of a resolved ending. But if you want to watch some masters doing their thing, it isn't a bad way to spend an hour and a half.
4 out of 5 stars