Roush Review: Russell Crowe Is Explosive as Fox News Titan in 'Loudest Voice'

Matt Roush
Review JoJo Whilden/SHOWTIME

Whenever Roger Ailes, the controversial political consultant turned Fox News visionary, raises his voice — which is frequently in Showtime's incendiary seven-part docudrama The Loudest Voice — even seasoned professionals quake.

Demanding unswerving loyalty, and erupting in fury if he senses anything less, he sends off his troops with the command, "Let's just make sure we're at our very best." Translation: Do your worst.

Ailes is portrayed with ferocious bluster by Russell Crowe in an astonishing makeup transformation rivaling Christian Bale's in Vice. This compelling adaptation of Gabriel Sherman's non-fiction The Loudest Voice in the Room isn't as clever as Vice in its blunt-force character study, which opens in an echo of the noir classic Sunset Boulevard with Ailes lying dead on the floor of his Palm Beach home, bitterly musing from the great beyond: "I know what people are gonna say about me. I can pretty much pick the words for you."

'The Loudest Voice': The Cast vs. Their Real-Life Counterparts (PHOTOS)

'The Loudest Voice': The Cast vs. Their Real-Life Counterparts (PHOTOS)

Russell Crowe and more bring the Fox News story to life in the Showtime series.

True enough, there are few surprises in this unflattering characterization, which typically involves a colorful string of four-letter words, as he unapologetically turns his new network into a partisan weapon, effectively blurring the line between news and opinion. His gospel: Give the people what they want, even if they don't know they want it.

(Credit: JoJo Whilden/SHOWTIME)

Throughout, Ailes is shown to be a cunning glutton for power and control. But he has an even darker appetite, which involves seducing and sexually compromising attractive young women on his payroll, including, most fatefully, former beauty queen anchor Gretchen Carlson (Naomi Watts).

By the end of this troubling story, which his advocates will likely see as unfair and unbalanced, Ailes will learn there are some headlines even he can't turn to his advantage. 

The Loudest VoiceSeries Premiere, Sunday, June 30, 10/9c, Showtime