This HBO original comedy, adapted by Larry Gelbart (Tootsie) from the book by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, concerns one of the most compelling tales of corporate buyout madness in the go-go 1980s. James Garner plays F. Ross Johnson, CEO of RJR Nabisco. Following failed and expensive efforts to sell a smokeless cigarette to the public, Johnson decides that he's had enough of navigating around the wrath of the company's stockholders. Drawing up plans to buy RJR Nabisco outright, he soon finds himself outmatched (though still determined) in a race for the prize with takeover king Henry Kravis (Jonathan Pryce). The ensuing battle is both bitterly funny and full of acid-tinged insights into the '80s greed that changed corporate America forever. Besides Gelbart's great script and Glenn Jordan's competent direction, the star of this exciting film is Garner, who is absolutely wonderful as the gracious Johnson. --Tom Keogh
Top Customer Reviews
But this movie is under 2 hours and managed to take a very complicated topic in Leveraged Buy-Outs (LBO's) in one of the biggest LBO's of our time in RJR-Nabisco and manages to make the story very entertaining. It flows quickly and I had no trouble following what's going on.
The acting is superb; Jonathan Pryce played Henry Kravis as a cold, calculated and ruthless corporate raider (whether Kravis is like that in real life I don't know) and James Garner did a nice job as F. Ross Johnson. Overall, if you like wall street type movies like Wall Street with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, I would highly recommend this movie. In fact, I like this better than Wall Street.
It is bitingly funny and like all satire that truly bites, it is funny because it is based on truth. This movie condenses the RJR - KKR competition into something like a farce (as it seemed in the papers at the time). Some may object to making such a huge deal into something of a joke, but c'mon, this whole deal had a large dose of the absurd about it. How else could they have played this story in two hours?
And it is has the additional benefit of being educational for business students. You will see how managers misuse shareholder money by treating it as if it were their own (agency costs). You will see planeloads of money poured into bad projects (NPV). You will see naked greed, inept investment advice, and broken trust (corporate ethics). You know, late 20th century American business! It is funny, dramatic, and a bit touching, for example, as they fly the sick pooch home on his own private corporate jet. (Which some deny every happening, but it has entered the realm of legend - so whether it happened or not it has become something like a kind of truth.)
James Garner is terrific (he almost always is) as is the whole cast. It really is a delightful movie and that is almost miraculous given how deadly boring this topic could have become.
But don't forget to read the book!
There are many things to enjoy about "Barbarians at the Gate", not the least of which is James Garner as F. Ross Johnson, the man who ran RJR. He is completely believable as a natural born salesman who rose to run one of the world's biggest corporations. His greed may be a turnoff, but his zest for living is infectious and charming. You can't help liking the guy. His nemesis in this high stakes game in the financier, Henry Kravis, played by Jonathon Pryce. It's a deliciously villainous role, and Pryce makes the most of it. Also of note is the great character actor Peter Riegert as Peter Cohen, Johnson's right-hand man in the deal.
I especially liked the movie's tone. It looks upon the goings on with an eye as jaundiced as the players themselves. It views them as overgrown boys fighting over a very big toy, but it does so with an amused, almost affection, flavor. The result is an enormously entertaining and very funny movie.
An all-out power war ensues, with Johnson working with Shearson Lehman Brothers pitted against Kravis and the powerhouse Drexel Burnham Lambert (mysteriously downplayed).
The performances are great and the storyline moves fast and holds your interest. Not to be missed if the dynamic world of finance is your thing. A very different movie than Wall Street both cinematically and contextually.
Stars James Garner, Jonathan Pryce (really, really good), and Peter Riegert.
Most recent customer reviews
Good story coverage for the leverage buyout of RJR Nabisco. It follows the book of the same title very accurately.Published 8 months ago by Michel Hebert
Great price used, for movie night. Always like anything James Garner has done.Published 15 months ago by Patricia Kays
This is a great movie, particularly for someone interested in true stories of corporate behavior. Several of my finance professors when I was pursing my MBA recommended this... Read morePublished on Sept. 19 2003
If not, it can be funny even to laymen. Obviously, it's practically impossible to transfer everything from the book to movie. So don't expect too much, Wall Street guys.Published on Nov. 3 2002 by cbs95
The book was a great read but unfortunately the movie was a disappointment. I have expected the movie to be at the same lines as the book in the manners of suspense and thrill that... Read morePublished on July 10 2002 by Bader N. O. Alsaleh
This film can be seen as the story telling on the origin of mergers and acquisitions in the history of human which dominates the financial markets activities nowaday.Published on April 13 2002 by Kantstant Fung
Want to know what does "Take Over" means ???? Buy it and know it. Perfect for MBA's students.Published on March 8 2002 by Marcelo Valero
James Garner is at his best in Barbarians at the Gate, This is a video that should been seen by all. One can't quite believe that this is a true story. Read morePublished on Nov. 18 2001 by E.Astor
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