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Barbarians At The Gate

James Garner , Jonathan Pryce , Glenn Jordan    Unrated   VHS Tape
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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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

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great entertainment if you like Wall Street, etc. Jan. 14 2003
People who complained that this movie doesn't compare to the book should relax a little. Any movie that's based on books cannot do the book justice in less than 2 hours. If you have 3 hours a la Lord of the Rings or 4 hours like the A&E production of Pride & Prejudice, then maybe and I would have adjusted my rating accordingly.
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not as great as the book, but a DELIGHTFUL farce Nov. 6 2002
The book this movie is made from is a masterpiece of business literature. It is impossible to make that wonderful book into anything less than an extended documentary or a several part mini-series. That being admitted and set aside, this is a very good and very funny movie. Amazingly, it tells a lot of the actual story as you can cram into a standard movie format.
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!
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This especially witty satire is one of the best movies about modern corporate attitudes ever made. It's based on the true story of the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco in the 1980s. While the filmmakers have naturally taken some artistic license, I think they capture the spirit of the event. In big business, they assert, given the choice between being greedy and doing the right thing, being greedy usually wins. This was especially true in this case because the bidding war that broke out drove the purchase price into the stratosphere. The company's stock, which had been trading in the $40 range was driven up to over $100. A whole lot of rich people got a whole lot richer.
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.
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By Big Guy
Format:VHS Tape
In the wild and wooly 1980s, leveraged buyouts (LBOs) -- financed predominantly through the issuance of junk bonds -- reigned supreme. James Garner gives a nice performance as CEO of RJR Nabisco, F. Ross Johnson. After reluctantly meeting with KKR's LBO guru Henry Kravis (portrayed masterfully by Jonathan Pryce), Johnson figures it would be best to go his own route to accomplish the buyout; after all, Johnson wants to retain his autonomy and Pryce would unlikely allow this to happen.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
Great price used, for movie night. Always like anything James Garner has done.
Published 7 days ago by Patricia Kays
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
good movie.
Published 2 months ago by Don
5.0 out of 5 stars I could see this movie over and over
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 more
Published on Sept. 19 2003 by "db63376"
3.0 out of 5 stars If you read the book, it's a disappointment.
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
2.0 out of 5 stars The book was great the Movie well.....
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 more
Published on July 10 2002 by Bader N. O. Alsaleh
5.0 out of 5 stars Origin of Mergers & Acquisitions
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
5.0 out of 5 stars The best CEO's Movie
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unexpected Hit
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 more
Published on Nov. 18 2001 by E.Astor
5.0 out of 5 stars The wonderful true story of 1980's greed....
This is the true account (albeit, dramatized), of the RJR-Nabisco Corporate takeover which took place in the mid-80's. Read more
Published on July 6 2001 by Bruce Klayman
5.0 out of 5 stars Comedy goes Wall Street
This is a TV production of a true story, based in the book of the same name by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar about the biggest corporate takeover of the eighties, the Nabisco... Read more
Published on July 4 2001 by F.Pabzcacs
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