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Film review: Talk Radio

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A one-man show, especially one that relies heavily on lengthy monologues, makes for a difficult movie. And "Talk Radio" is no exception.

Actually, there are other characters in this film, and they enter and exit with plot devices to flesh out the show. Yet, it is these moments when the movie drags and you may find yourself urging the film to get back to its main character.

It is Eric Bogosian's spellbinding performance as a "shock radio" talk show host who is self-destructing live on the air that virtually carries the film. His character is incredibly compelling, while at the same time quite despicable.

Some of the thanks for that is due also to director Oliver Stone ("Platoon," "Wall Street"), who keeps the camera moving and the claustrophobic feel of a radio studio booth at a minimum — except when the drama calls for just that.

Bogosian plays Barry Champlain, a wild-eyed, loud-mouthed, insulting late-night Houston "Talk Radio" host who tells his callers how stupid they are for their narrow-minded beliefs.

In reality, Champlain may be much more narrow-minded himself; he has an amazing lack of tolerance for one who seems to preach just that. Worse, he is on the edge and about to fall off, taunting his audience and begging someone to come forward with an act of violence.

To some degree "Talk Radio" is based on the life of Alan Berg, a Denver radio personality who treated his audience similarly, and who was gunned down as a result.

But screenwriters Bogosian and Stone (basing their script on Bogosian's play) have made the fictional Barry Champlain younger and even more volatile and aggressive. They have also invented a past, shown in flashbacks, and built in an ex-wife, current lover, a couple of bosses — all for added conflict.

To that end as well, the plot has Champlain about to go on the network, a fact that seems to push him over the edge.

But there's plenty of conflict in Champlain himself. Add to that his offbeat callers, and the rest seems extraneous.

In the end, however, it's Bogosian and his dynamic, chilling performance that make "Talk Radio" an event. When the plot meanders into other areas we simply wait for it to return to him. And when it does, he delivers with everything he's got.

He is what makes "Talk Radio" worth seeing, and he is what you'll be talking about afterward.

The film is rated R for violence and quite a bit of profanity and vulgarity.