James Woods is Max Renn, president of Channel 83, a controversial TV channel with a limited budget and non-existent morals in David Cronenberg’s exploration into the power and motivation of television. Those familiar with only Cronenberg’s later, Viggo Mortensen-starring work (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises and the incoming A Dangerous Method) may be surprised to discover the mind-scarring imagery rife throughout his body-horror classics, most notable in Max Renn’s chest-vagina, as he finds himself morphing into a VCR, or a radio signal that induces brain tumours in the viewer to rid the world of the sadistic scum who watch it – a sort of Taxi Driver meets the Ring approach to cultural cleansing. Woods is riveting in every scene; an underrated and underused actor capable of a great deal more than he’s ever given credit for, and the ideas on show here are nothing short of fascinating. The pornography and violence may be too much for sum – a TV program has no plot, just realistic sex and torture, and a woman requests Max stub cigarettes out on her and pierce her ears during sex – but if you can cope with these then you’ll be fine.
Choose film 7/10