Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Essays

Power games: In movies like ‘Passion,’ business is a bloodsport

Some people would kill for a promotion.

In Brian De Palma’s Passion, ambitious corporate executive Rachel McAdams and workaholic assistant Noomi Rapace turn a close (almost intimate) working relationship into a vindictive battle after McAdams takes credit for her assistant’s idea to grab a promotion. Ostensibly a remake of Alain Corneau’s Love Crime, De Palma transforms the workplace warfare of the French original into a De Palma film of seduction, power, and violence as a cinematic ballet, escalating the psychological battle into something much deadlier.

The workplace can be a real battleground. Here are some films that take that the idea to heart, from the merely ambitious who use words and sex as weapons to the coldly ruthless who take a more direct approach, advancing their careers by eliminating the competition. If you think the rivalry at your workplace is murder, here are some professionals who won’t let anyone stand in their way of advancement.

Kevin Spacey and Jack Lemmon in ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’

Glengarry Glen Ross‘ (1992)

The stakes: The fabled Glengarry leads … and their manhood

Weapon of choice: David Mamet’s words, sharpened to a cutting edge

Though there is no literal body count, Glengarry Glen Ross is as lacerating a perspective on American business in the company of men as you’ll find. It’s all in David Mamet’s shark-like conversations, strangled exasperation and salesman jungle cries, bitten off and bashed around by some of the best actors to pitch out an obscenity like a love call. Al Pacino is the king of this pathetic jungle, a crummy office where worthless real estate is hawked to suckers over the phone, Jack Lemmon, the veteran salesman in a career-crippling slump, Alec Baldwin, the frosty company hatchet man, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey … This is a cast of killers, though their tactics stop short of physical injury, let alone murder. They’ll settle for smothering the soul of their competitors.

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