The 80's business boom was about money but even more than that it was about egos. Barbarians at the Gate is a perfect
look at the personalities that drove - and still drive - American corporate greed. The 1993 film details F. Ross Johnson's attempt
acquire the company for which he was CEO: RJR Nabisco. This tobacco and cookie giant had hit a slow period without much
in stock value and, with a proposed line of smokeless cigarettes starting to look like a stinker, Johnson (James Garner) decided
buyout of the company was the best way to ensure its (and his) prosperity. What Johnson didn't count on was the self-serving
meddling of the
entire business world, particularly billionaire financier Henry Kravis (Jonathan Pryce) who took credit for the idea of a buyout.
The title refers to one character's description of Kravis' buy-and-burn business tactics, an uncouth assortment of cost-cutting
and power-grabs wrapped in a slick $3000 dollar suit and a phalanx of lawyers.
The path of the movie is simple, even if the
aren't. Johnson, not used to being told no, wants to run the company and own it as well. Kravis wants to own it more out of spite
and out of a fear
of being seen as out of the game. Finally, when the biggest corporate buyout to date does take place it practically makes everyone
The film never reaches for the lofty comedy-drama of HBO's similarly money-minded The Late Shift and the ending is a bit
abrupt (afterall, this is a game
where losing means only making millions instead of billions) but as an overview of the era and some of the unscrupulous,
backstabbing practices, Barbarians at the Gate is purely blue chip.
The widescreen anamorphic transfer is not too good. The picture is muddy and lacking in punch. The film looks older than its eight
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is modest but effective. It is also available in 2.0 French and Spanish,
with subtitles in those three languages as well. Unfortunately the loud score is one of the worst I've heard in a long time.
Some bios are included.
As a primer for a kind of business dealing that most of us will never be party to, Barbarians at the Gate
is great, even if it's not one of the most energetic DVD releases out there.