20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Left field contender for Oliver Stones finest movie,
This review is from: Talk Radio [DVD] (DVD)
No one polarises my opinion of his work like Oliver Stone. I either love his films -”Salvador, “Platoon”, “Nixon”, “J.F.K” “Born On the Fourth Of July” ,”Wall Street” “U Turn” -or dislike it with a passion - “The Doors” the messy “Natural Born Killers”, “Heaven And Earth” and recent disaster “Alexander”- but Talk Radio is possibly his least notorious and may be , just may be my favourite of them all.
Eric Bogasian in what is easily the pinnacle of his cinematic career( He would later be reduced to playing a catoonish villain to arch nematode Steven Seagal ,s ass kicking hero in some abomination or other) plays Barry Champlain , a character based on notorious shock jock Alan Berg, the confrontational host of a late night Dallas talk show which attracts all the disenfranchised ,lonely and plain weird as the main demographic of it’s callers. Champlain dispenses his own caustic brand of quick fire wisdom in order to put them in their place and point where authority and society the world over is going wrong. Which would be fine if Champlain himself wasn’t such an arrogant hypocritical philandering asshole. We see him through a series of nicely edited flashbacks graduate by blind luck from a suit salesman to the co- host of a radio show where his ruthless ambition leads him to climb all over the man who gave him his big break. We also see him cheat relentlessly on his long suffering wife (Ellen Greene) till she can take no more. He later humiliates her live on air just as a whiff of reconciliation hangs in the air just because he can. Champlain just can’t help himself, his parvanimity exerting itself whenever there is a chance his character appears redeemable. But he eventually upsets the wrong person, as he perpetually berates a Neo Nazi on air who takes issue with Champlain’s lack of empathy with devasting consequences.
Based on Bogosians stage play of the same name Talk radio is co- written with Bogasian and directed with real flair by Stone. The camera prowls restlessly around Champlain as he delivers his stinging yet eloquent monologues, nicely mirroring the characters excessive energy and swirling synapses. Potential viewers could ask, with some justification, why they should care about this character and what happens to him? Well , and this is the films real triumph , despite Champlain’s less than becoming personality Stone makes his actions and the consequences of them riveting to watch . If you are not engrossed within the first ten minutes of the movie as Champlain learns through his boss (Alec Baldwin) that he is to go national and receives his first death threat from the rabid Nazi while shamelessly exploiting his views for an apparently apocryphal tale of a visit to a Nazi death camp you might as well switch off. It’s also fascinating to watch how Champlain twists everything to achieve his confrontational ends yet often arrives at the moral truth of an argument. It’s also interesting that as this film was released in 1986 how so many of the issues raised are still pertinent today. Life for him is a constant drama and a struggle to make him understood. Same for most of us. Except we don’t actively seek it out or air it on live radio. He does and he pays the price.
This is a terrific film. It may not be Oliver Stones best known film but be assured it’s one of his very best.