Based on the play The Wheelbarrow Closers, THE CLOSER suffers from the claustrophobia and wordiness that so often characterize such adaptations.
Chester Grant (Danny Aiello) is a ruthless businessman famed for his ability to close a deal, no matter how high the stakes or how difficult the circumstances. After a series of heart attacks, he's been warned that he must retire. He announces impetuously that he's bypassing the normal chain of
command and intends to turn over the reins of his real estate empire to one of two salesmen he's selected: brash New Yorker Larry Freede (Michael Pare) or teflon Midwesterner John Mogen (Joe Cortese). His longtime friend and associate Ned Randall (James Karen), the logical candidate for the job,
is understandably upset. Grant arranges for Randall, Freede and Mogen to join his family for Thanksgiving dinner, much to the dismay of his unhappy wife Beatrice (Diane Baker) and rebellious children Jessica (Justine Bateman) and Chet (Tim Quill).
The event quickly degenerates into a tense contest of wills, as Grant alternately bullies and flatters Freede and Mogen, pitting the young men against each other in a contest whose rules he deliberately keeps to himself. Buried family tensions also erupt, especially those surrounding the bitter
unhappiness Grant's wife and children feel about the death--in an automobile accident that smacked of suicide--of another son, Billy (Rick Aiello), after an injury forced him to abandon a promising sports career and go into business with his father. By the end of the evening, everyone has left:
Freede, accompanied by Jessica, and Mogen declaring that they don't want the job, Beatrice saying she's had enough of Grant's infidelities and cruelty, Chet determined to break away from his family and Randall in disgust at his old friend's behavior. Grant is left alone.
THE CLOSER's origins as a theater piece are painfully apparent in its one-set construction, and attempts by director Dimitri Logothetis and screenwriters Louis LaRusso II and Robert Keats to open it out--a scene in Grant's board room or his doctor's office here, various flashbacks to his
relationship with Billy there--aren't particularly successful; they feel like nothing more than desperate attempts to open out a stage play.
Casting is of paramount importance in THE CLOSER, which stands or falls on the character of Chester Grant, a monstrously successful Willy Loman for whom making the sale is more important than principles or family or anything else in the world. THE CLOSER is dangerously close to being a one-man
show; all the other characters exist primarily to react to or provoke a reaction from Grant. Aside from the fact that he makes a highly improbable W.A.S.P., it's easy to see why Danny Aiello (MOONSTRUCK, DO THE RIGHT THING) seemed a good choice for the role of a bulldog-like businessman whose
success comes from his willingness to take any situation by the throat and shake it until it surrenders; he's got the obvious grating, driven, bullying qualities the character needs. What he lacks is the ability to make Grant charismatic; it's not that viewers have to like Grant, but they need to
feel the pull of his personality, to understand why he could sell ice to eskimos. THE CLOSER is a classical tragedy, in which the seeds of Grant's destruction lie within his own personality. But that tragedy is undermined by the fact that Aiello makes Grant a loathsome pig.
The rest of the performances vary in quality, though they're so firmly in Aiello's shadow that it hardly matters. Baker gives a fine performance as Beatrice, while Bateman, Quill, Karen and Cortese hold their own. Michael Pare (EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS, STREETS OF FIRE), whose early career as a
heartthrob fizzled after a few films, gives a performance of one-note abrasiveness, and Rick Aiello (Danny's son; his other son, Danny Aiello III, is a successful stunt coordinator) makes very little impression as Billy. (Profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: Based on the play The Wheelbarrow Closers, THE CLOSER suffers from the claustrophobia and wordiness that so often characterize such adaptations. Chester Grant (Danny Aiello) is a ruthless businessman famed for his ability to close a deal, no matter how h… (more)