Talk Radio

"Excellent"

Talk Radio Review


Two powder kegs of angry energy -- director Oliver Stone and actor/writer Eric Bogosian -- joined together in 1988 for this character study set during the late '80s media explosion, a combustible drama about a self-important talk radio host (Bogosian) on the road to disaster. With every ranting Bogosian monologue, with every listener phone call of derision or adoration, both actor and director keep their audience riveted. It's an impressive feat considering that the bulk of Talk Radio takes place in a single radio studio.

Bogosian is Barry Champlain, a brilliant loudmouth gab machine hosting a popular nightly talk show filled with his strong opinions and whack-job listeners. One fears her garbage disposal. One begs to visit Barry at the studio. And one (many?) offer the Jewish host death threats in the name of Nazism.

The script, created by Bogosian and Stone, is based on a couple of sources including Bogosian's play and a book chronicling the 1984 murder of Denver talk show host Alan Berg. Whether you're aware of this tragic true-life connection or not, the tension that Stone and Bogosian design is affecting and, at times, nearly unbearable, as we wait for what seems to be inevitable: the destruction of Barry Champlain.

But it might not take some neo-Nazi to get it done. Champlain himself could be the poster boy for self-destruction, high enough on success to piss on his own marriage, thick enough to attempt a salient argument with a listener he meets at a basketball game. You always get the feeling that Champlain's worst enemy is himself, and that Bogosian's creation is moments away from imploding.

Before Talk Radio, Stone had just commented on the ugly perils of war (Platoon, 1986) and the disgust of corporate excess (Wall Street, 1987), so this canvas appears to be almost small for his typical breadth of commentary. But with a protagonist's abusive tendencies and the lonely aimless ramblings of an unseen listening audience, Stone is still shoving something important in our face: the loss of civility. Not decency -- that's too vague and conservative an ideal for a thinker like Stone -- just civility. He asks an accepting audience, both in the film and in the theater: How much crap will you take, and why?

Aside from broad commentary, Stone's crafty, well-plotted direction (with Stewart Copeland's stunning music) goes far to illuminate Champlain's anger and ultimate self-realization. As with Wall Street, Stone's camera seems to be moving all of the time, flowing back and forth within tight spaces, enveloping characters to elevate pressure, and racking focus to reveal images against the studio glass. The studio becomes the jury room in Twelve Angry Men, the sub in Das Boot.

When the story does take us away from the radio station to develop Champlain's pained lunatic character, returning for subsequent scenes has an air of excitement and a looming sense of doom. At the workplace, Champlain regularly ignores the old "don't shit where you eat" adage, sleeping with his producer and pissing off his boss (Alec Baldwin, showing hints of Glengarry Glen Ross intensity).

Bogosian inhabits Champlain like a man possessed. During the verbal volley with the woman at the basketball game, he tilts his head, dog-like, while awaiting an answer, keeping his face close to the woman, wanting to get up her nose, into her brain. Even without words, Bogosian creates an enormous outward aggression, an accepted sign of the times for some talk hosts in the '80s. While TV's screaming and shouting may have given way to people eating animal innards for cash, Talk Radio still resonates with comments on fame, censorship, and a lonely audience living on blind faith.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Friday 13th January 1989

Box Office Worldwide: $3.5M

Budget: $4M

Distributed by: MCA Universal Home Video

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 20 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: A. Kitman Ho, Edward R. Pressman

Starring: as Barry Champlain, as Ellen, as Laura, John C. McGinley as Stu, as Dan, as Dietz

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.