The Big Kahuna

Three industrial-lubricant salesmen — old pros Larry (Kevin Spacey) and Phil (Danny DeVito), plus wet-behind-the-ears Bob (Peter Facinelli) — gather in a cramped hospitality suite in an anonymous Wichita, KS, hotel; their mission is to land an audience with a potential client, the "big kahuna" of the title. Over the course of a long, emotionally...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Three industrial-lubricant salesmen — old pros Larry (Kevin Spacey) and Phil (Danny DeVito), plus wet-behind-the-ears Bob (Peter Facinelli) — gather in a cramped hospitality suite in an anonymous Wichita, KS, hotel; their mission is to land an

audience with a potential client, the "big kahuna" of the title. Over the course of a long, emotionally draining evening, they bare their tormented souls: Phil is newly divorced and clearly sliding into the grip of depression; Larry is a roman candle of blunt ambition; and the self-righteous Bob

is having trouble reconciling his religious principles with the profane and opportunistic world of dog-eat-dog salesmanship. Adapted from a stage play by Roger Rueff, a former chemical engineer whose first-hand experience of the fear, anxiety and depression of working life is clear, this

claustrophobic drama is undermined by the familiarity of the material. Though uniformly well acted (in Spacey's case, exceptionally well acted), it's neither as ferocious as Glengarry Glen Ross nor as finely crafted as Death of a Salesman, two plays-turned-movies it inevitably

recalls. The film is an impressive achievement, shot in 16 days by John Swanbeck (a theater director making his movie debut), while Spacey (whose long-term commitment to the project was instrumental in making it happen) rehearsed for his Broadway appearance in the notoriously difficult The

Iceman Cometh. Everyone concerned deserves credit for pulling it off, but it's a chamber piece that probably should have stayed where it started, in regional theater.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Three industrial-lubricant salesmen — old pros Larry (Kevin Spacey) and Phil (Danny DeVito), plus wet-behind-the-ears Bob (Peter Facinelli) — gather in a cramped hospitality suite in an anonymous Wichita, KS, hotel; their mission is to land an a… (more)

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