Reviewer’s grade: B+
There probably aren’t a lot of actors who could inhabit the role of Petey Greene, a real-life radio personality who dominated Washington, D.C., radio in the Sixties and Seventies with his ghettoized gab and no-frills candor. To play the man, you need someone who can dazzle with bona fide charisma and command of words.
Thankfully, the biopic “Talk to Me” has Don Cheadle as the ex-con who parlayed talk into a career that presaged the era of “shock jocks.” Director Kasi Lemmons wisely avoids a sweep of Petey’s life, focusing instead on his friendship with his radio program director/manager, Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
Under Dewey’s stewardship, Petey sets the airwaves afire with the voice of Black Power, his banter a fusillade of fierce honesty. At its best, “Talk to Me” electrifies with wit and energy. At its worst, it is soggy and predictable. But Cheadle’s performance makes it riveting throughout. R