Suckers (1999)

“The salesman’s job starts when the customer says no.”

Before you ever buy a used car, you need to watch Suckers. The film revolves around the Southside car dealership which is managed by tough-as-nails, Reggie (Daniel Benzali)–a man who believes that there are no limits when it comes to selling cars. Bobby Deluca (Louis Mandylor) applies for a job as a car salesman at Southside–he’s had a run of bad luck, and desperately needs money. To him, the sales job isn’t what he really wants, but it’s necessary. Director Roger Nygard explores the racist culture at the car dealership mainly through the interactions between Reggie and his team of aggressive salesmen. Reggie leads a number of Saturday morning ‘inspirational’ sales meetings and dangles a $10,000 bonus out there for the top salesman of the month. These inspirational meetings are a behind-the-scenes look at some very familiar manipulative sales tactics, and anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of a hard-sell salesman will recognize some of the tactics at play in the film.

Reggie always compares the act of selling a car to the customer as a predatory sexual act. While he acknowledges that the customer really has all the control, he emphasizes his tried-and-true methods for wresting psychological control from the customer and steering the “sucker” towards a horrible deal. Reggie’s strategy is to capitalize on the customer’s financial naivete by bouncing the customer back and forth between the down payment, the monthly payment, and the finance charges, until he squeezes the optimum price from the deal. Reggie’s methods aren’t pretty, and although Suckers is a comedy film, it’s a dark twisted humour that’s at work here. Reggie is a truly appalling person, and Daniel Benzali’s performance is incredible.

Suckers is a lively, crude film from beginning to end. Rife with sexual references, the film follows Bobby’s introduction to the hard-sell atmosphere of the dealership–a place where nice people get eaten alive by the barracuda salesmen. In many ways, the culture at the car lot reflects society in general, and Reggie’s view that it’s a dog-eat-dog world is bleak. Reggie believes that anything is justified when it comes to making a sale, and he spouts his “it’s never enough” philosophy (and morality) every chance he gets–egging on his salesmen, dehumanizing the customers, and justifying every deceptive ploy. Bobby discovers that no matter how tough you are, and how far you’re prepared to go, there’s always someone more desperate than you are, so in many ways this entertaining film is a cautionary tale. If you enjoy this film, I also recommend the documentary Slasher.

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