Barbarians at the Gate

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

F. Ross Johnson (James Garner) is the main man at R.J.R. Nabisco, the CEO and that means he calls the shots. But he also has to deal with the shareholders and as such, sometimes issues are more out of his hands than in them. He would love to take control of the entire company and the massive profits, but that would be a difficult task. Even so, Johnson decides that the time has never been better to attempt such a move and in order to gain control, he will need to buy out the shareholders and as a result. his word will be the definitive force in check. He will need help to make this happen however, so he is soon introduced to Henry Kravis (Jonathan Pryce), the master of the leverage buyout and veteran of corporate wars. Some doubts about Kravis’ intentions lead Johnson to choose Peter Cohn (Peter Riegert) instead, but Kravis is by no means out of the picture. Instead, Kravis mounts his own series of moves to challenge Johnson, but only one of these titans will surface as the winner once the smoke has cleared…

This is one of my favorite made for cable movies and as it is quite popular, I am surprised it took this long to reach DVD. I love the subject matter here and while younger audiences might not remember the 1980s Wall Street scene, but with new stock market films such as Rogue Trader and Boiler Room being made, perhaps the interest is there. But the modern Wall Street situation just isn’t as intriguing as the one from the 80s and as such, films like Barbarians at the Gate and of course, Wall Street remain as must see pictures. This is one wild and almost unbelievable story, which is even more powerful because it is based on real life events. It may seem like a drama by definition, but this one also has a lot of humor, some quite dark. But in any event, Barbarians at the Gate is a superb picture and a true milestone in made for cable movies, without a doubt. James Garner, Jonathan Pryce, Fred Dalton Thompson, Leilani Sarelle head up an impressive cast, while Glenn Jordan (Sarah Plain and Tall) provides more than solid direction. I love this flick and while the disc is bare bones, it is still well worth a rental, without a doubt.

In the lead here is James Garner, who was a wise choice to take on the role of F. Ross Johnson, to be sure. Garner is able to handle all aspects of this role, from the obvious notions to the more subtle touches, which creates a more realistic vision. As it had to be, he shows the mean, ruthless side of Johnson, but also the calm, more gentleman-like side. This balance to crucial to how well the character works and by turn, how well Barbarians at the Gate works. I never tire of watching Garner in action here, especially in a few scenes, sometimes small ones, but still important and highly memorable ones. Other films with Garner include Support Your Local Sheriff, Space Cowboys, Murphy’s Romance, The Castaway Cowboy, The Great Escape, Maverick, and of course, he can be seen on Tv’s The Rockford Files. The cast also includes Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, The Suicide Club), Leilani Sarelle (Basic Instinct, Days of Thunder), and Fred Dalton Thompson (The Hunt for Red October, Necessary Roughness ).

Video: How does it look?

Barbarians at the Gate is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I’d never seen this film in widescreen before and never knew I ever would, so I was unsure of what to expect from this release. The main issue here is the source print used, as it shows a lot of grain and some minor flecks & debris. The grain is the real downer here, as it can be thick and lessens the visual impact at times. Even so, the image looks more than solid most of the time, with some scenes that get lulled by the grain. As this was a made for cable flick however, I assume it had a lower budget and by default, should be given some extra slack.

Audio: How does it sound?

As you should be able to guess, this is not the kind of movie to watch for a powerful, memorable audio experience. The included 2.0 surround option is solid however, with a nice overall presence, given the material involved. The music sometimes wanders through the channels, but aside from that, this is a front based track, with a few small exceptions. The main focus is where is should be, on the dialogue and it sounds terrific here. This disc also includes Spanish & French language options, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes some talent files, but no other bonus materials.

Disc Scores