Talk Radio

1988

Talk Radio

Critics Consensus

The gripping union of a director and star at the peak of their respective powers, Talk Radio offers the viewer a singularly unlikable character and dares you to look away.

82%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 49

81%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,751
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Where to watch

Talk Radio Photos

Movie Info

Monologist Eric Bogosian's one-man theater piece Talk Radio, co-written by Bogosian and Tad Savinar, is searingly brought to the screen by Oliver Stone. Bogosian plays provocateur radio talk-show host Barry Champlain, whose constant espousal of his inflammatory views and ceaseless hectoring of his callers and listeners reaps equal parts love and hate. As his program rolls on, Champlain is revealed to be just as screwed up as any of his fans, if not more. And then he pushes one caller just a bit too far. In co-adapting the play for the screen, Stone interweaves elements of Stephen Singular's factual book Talked to Death, the story of a liberal Denver radio personality who was murdered at the behest of a militant right-wing hate group. One word of warning: if you're not a fan of the sort of radio depicted herein, chances are you won't warm up to this film.

Cast

John Pankow
as Chuck Dietz
Michael Wincott
as Voice of Joe
Zach Grenier
as Sid Greenberg
Anna Levine
as Woman at Basketball Game
Robert Trebor
as Voice of Francine
Linda Atkinson
as Sheila Fleming
Pirie MacDonald
as Judge Willard
Alan Corduner
as Vince/Morris
Mimi Cochran
as Girl #1
Chip Moody
as Announcer
David Poynter
as Engineer
Park Overall
as Agnes/Debbie/Theresa
Michele Mariana
as Rhonda/Elderly Woman/Julia
Al Clark
as Larry
Leigh French
as Newscaster
Rockets Redglare
as Killer/Redneck Caller
View All

News & Interviews for Talk Radio

Critic Reviews for Talk Radio

All Critics (49) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (40) | Rotten (9)

Audience Reviews for Talk Radio

  • Mar 23, 2016
    "Sticks and stones can break your bones but words cause permanent damage" It's been difficult of late for director Oliver Stone to find a project that has the same spark or controversy of his earlier work. He was probably at his best back in the 1980's when he wrote the screenplay for Brian DePalma's Scarface and directed such visceral works as Salvador, the Oscar winning Platoon, Wall Street and Born on the Fourth of July. The one that seems to be least mentioned in his filmography, at this time, though, is the sadly overlooked, Talk Radio; his adaptation of Eric Bogosian's Pulitzer Prize nominated stage play. Barry Champlain (Bogosian) is a late night 'shock DJ' who doesn't mince his words when it comes to rebelling against the opinions of his many callers. Night after night he takes calls and the more he rebels, the more he finds that his abrasive statements and scathing personal opinions are nothing more than entertainment for a disillusioned American public. Maybe the reason this entry from Stone has been so overlooked is because it's not as culturally or historically significant as his aforementioned films. He's not trawling the war torn lands or jungles of El Salvador or Vietnam, nor even the frantic, greed-infused stock exchange. He's primarily stuck in one room - a small, pokey radio studio - and primarily focused on one man, making this essentially a chamber piece. But, don't be disheartened, this brings just as much drama with it's intense and claustrophobic exchanges. As expected, in such a minimal setting, the film is very much dialogue driven and this is largely at the command of a ruthless Bogosian. Whenever he's allowed to deliver his scathing rants and monologues (and there are many) the film has an energy and spark that makes for gleefully fraught entertainment. The callers add as much spice to the proceedings as Champlain though, and it gives Stone a chance to depict the dark underbelly of America. There are calls from psychotic white supremacists, lonely cat people, doped up Rock and Rollers and suicidal lovers. Champlain doesn't pull his punches, though, he obnoxiously attacks and challenges these people for their contribution (or lack of) to society in general and even when their thoughts hold up a microscope to the disturbed psychosis of society it also displays that Champlain, himself, is no less tortured than the one's he sarcastically chooses to insult. As a result, it becomes a scathing indictment of what's wrong with America. Each caller is a representation of it's greed, it's consumerism, it's self-righteousness and it's racism. But that's not all. Stone and Bogosian lure us in, challenging us to question ourselves and question our own contribution to society, our own politics and our own self-awareness. A highly charged and criminally overlooked film from Stone's catalogue. Dialogue driven it may be but this is a polemic who's bite is as ferocious as it's bark. Mark Walker
    Mark W Super Reviewer
  • May 04, 2013
    While among Oliver Stone's less known work, Talk Radio is one of his most interesting films nonetheless. The film looks at a shock radio personality, whose shtick both endears him to some and alienates him from others, culminating in his eventual death, being based on actual events. Taking place predominately in one setting, a radio studio, Stone was able to create a very noticeable level of intensity and earnestness, albeit a very confined intensity. This is a testament to his style of scene building, with an especially keen sense of framing that both underscores the emotion of the scene, and creates great tension. This works, as the film is essentially a character study, and an exploration of the medium of radio as well, a medium both intensely personal and yet also impersonal. The performance by Eric Bogosian really anchors the film. His manic energy, his seeming callousness, his cynicism, embodies the role perfectly. Through the progression of the film, we see his character arc, which is done in both an authentic and organic way. The themes explored in Talk Radio are done well. It captures the societal fascination with decadence and the mundane in powerful way, while also being a commentary on our modern media culture. Some of the dialogue used in the radio scenes can be stilted at times, but it's always sold well by Bogosian. An overall underrated and overlooked smartly executed gem by Stone. 4/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 20, 2013
    Talk Radio is a decent independent drama from Oliver Stone, but it makes typical indie film mistakes. The opening 30 minutes was amazing, great dialogue, and automatically intriguing. After that it went down on a slope, an got dry. Once it got back to the radio though I was wishing for this to be longer. It's like Network for radio. The pacing was awful as I've already mentioned, but once it was up my heart was racing. The ending took out the realism completely. I liked the idea but not the execution. I do reccomed watching, well listening to the credits though.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer
  • Nov 06, 2012
    This early Stone has a few flashes of what we can expect from the director later but it is ultimately imperfect.
    John B Super Reviewer

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