Plot: This could turn out to be the best few days of Barry Champlain’s (Eric Bogosian) life, or they could end up being the very worst. He works as a radio show host and after some work on other shows, he has had his own format show for some time now. His opinions are clear to all that listen, as Barry pulls no punches and makes sure everyone knows just where he stands on the issues. As it turns out, this pulls in a ton of listeners, but not all of them like Barry and his antics. Sure, Barry has a nice fan base that loves his show, but then there are also those who hate him and seek to make sure he is never heard on the air waves again. But now that Barry has garnered some fame thanks to his show’s success, he might be picked up for national syndication and that means even more exposure and of course, more cash. This is good news, but Barry worries he will have to change his show and as such, begins a total tirade against his boss, friends, listeners, and even his own ex-wife. It seems like Barry has more to talk about than ever, but a lot of people tuned in have plans to make sure Barry is silenced once and for all.
Entertainment Value: Talk Radio is based on Eric Bogosian’s one man stage show, which was in turn inspired by the real life murder of Alan Berg and that imbues the material with a lot of authentic atmosphere. The movie is also influenced by the rise of the shock jocks of radio and of course decades later, we have talk radio overrun by political pundits, who proved to be just as incendiary and provocative. You can tell this was based on a stage production, as the movie is small scale for the most part and stays mainly in Barry’s studio. Not all intimate settings translate to cinema, but this time it works, as it puts Barry into a pressure cooker of sorts, holed up in this small space while under fire from all directions, it seems. This yields a claustrophobic texture and paranoia creeps in, which makes the already tense material even more so, which allows Talk Radio to pack a real dramatic punch. The narrative isn’t that strong, as it is cluttered with some ineffective threads and most of the supporting characters have little to do, but the atmosphere is good and Eric Bogosian’s performance is incendiary, more than enough reason to recommend this one.
The main draw of Talk Radio is Eric Bogosian, who turns in a force of nature level effort in the lead role of Barry Champlain. He is known for high energy and strong presence in his roles, but this one lets him take that to the next level, easily one of his best and most memorable performances. While he does dial up his persona to insane levels at times, that is in line with the Barry character, who is beyond over the top, at least when the show is on the air. But even in his most over the top moments, Bogosian is believable and authentic, no small feat. I also appreciate how he can execute the long, intricate exchanges with various callers, but make it all feel in the moment and raw, which had to be a tough order. The supporting cast has numerous famous faces, but no one is given much to do, so this remains the Bogosian show. The cast also includes Alec Baldwin, Ellen Greene, John C. McGinley, and Leslie Hope. Oliver Stone’s direction is tight and effective, so his fans have a lot to take in here as well.
The Disc: Twilight Time released Talk Radio on Blu-ray, in a clean and sharp treatment that renders previous editions obsolete. The print looks super clean and that allows an improved level of fine detail, so you will know this is high definition and I think fans will be impressed. The film still has a little bit of a raw look, which suits the material, so it is nice to know the intended visual design remains intact here. No concerns with colors or contrast either, both of which look natural. The extras include an interview with Oliver Stone, an isolated music track, and the film’s trailer.