TV-trained writer-director Michael Caleo's tricky thriller/melodrama about the high-pressure world of sales mines the same vein of frustration, cut-throat competitiveness and sweaty desperation as David Mamet's GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992) before taking a "Gotcha!" turn that's both less visceral and thoroughly unconvincing.
Foul-tempered and fouler-mouthed (or perhaps it's the other way around) salesman Ted Riker (Michael Keaton) is the secret weapon of his company's New York City office. Ted was single-handedly responsible for almost two thirds of all sales last quarter, and as far as he's concerned there's no secret to being good at selling: It's a blood sport, and "all you have to do is ignore your conscience." Unfortunately, Ohio-transplant Jamie Bashant (Brendan Fraser), a top dog back in the boondocks from which he was recruited, is having trouble finding his feet in the big city. Assigned to mentor Jamie, the seething Ted doesn't know whom to hate more: spineless local manager John Whitman (Daniel Stern), who stuck him with babysitting duty, or the grinning boy scout who couldn't sell bottled water in Death Valley. Can Jamie really be as clueless as he seems? He can parrot every glib platitude in the motivational handbook — "forget about the business outlook and be on the outlook for business," "be the shark, not the bait," "a salesman isn't a salesman when he's not selling" — and is pathetically determined to please his smart, beautiful fiancee, former art-gallery owner Belisa (Amber Valetta), even though she's already broken off their engagement twice and looks as though she might be getting cold feet again. But Jamie can't sell, Whitman — under pressure from the head office — is firing low-performing sales associates, and Ted isn't in the business of saving eager beavers from their own wussy weakness. By the time Jamie starts drowning his sorrows in liquor and lap dancers, Ted should be stepping aside and letting Jamie hang himself with his own incompetence. Except that Ted and Belisa have enmeshed themselves in a passionate affair, and Ted is letting the one-two punch of happiness and the reemergence of his long-buried conscience erode his screw-'em-before-they-screw-you armor. Nothing good can come of it, and nothing good does.
Trying to out-Mamet Mamet is a losing proposition, but Caleo gives it the old college try. The result is a little bit nutty and pretty entertaining in a thoroughly unconvincing way. And watch out for that 11th-hour twist — it's a head snapper. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh