The film is carried by its really fine ensemble cast - one of the best ever assembled - including Al Pacino as top dog salesman Ricky Roma, whom the other men look up to with a mix of envy and resentment for his success; Jack Lemmon as Shelley Levene, a sad old-timer who's seen better days and is prepared to use drastic measures to ensure his family is provided for; Ed Harris as arrogant and lazy Dave Moss; and Alan Arkin as nervous, underachieving George Aaronow. Kevin Spacey is excellent in an early role as spineless corporate crony Williamson, Jonathan Pryce is good in his understated turn as a timid client who caves under Pacino's high-pressure sales tactics, and Alec Baldwin steals his scene in a role specially written for the film, as the abusive motivational speaker sent by corporate to put the fear of God into the salesmen.
David Mamet's script, based on his own play, is a masterpiece of construction, building the events of the plot to a fever pitch. James Foley's effective and unobtrusive direction belies an invisible style, which never calls attention to itself but maintains a strong pace and expertly stages the action within the limited screen space of the real estate office and the restaurant across the street, creating strong visual atmosphere with the harsh neon light and rainy, nocturnal ambiance. The atmosphere is enhanced by James Newton Howard's plaintive jazz score, with Wayne Shorter's saxophone solos conveying an agitated, nervous energy. One of those films where all of the pieces come together perfectly, and one of the best films of its decade.