THE RIOT CLUB
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Starring Max Irons, Douglas Booth and Sam Claflin
The Riot Club is an adaptation of Laura Wade's 2010 stage play Posh which was inspired by the infamous Bullingdon Club. Historically the society, inextricably linked with Oxford University, hosts lavish dinners often followed by substantial damage to the host dining establishment with the knowledge that reimbursement will not be an issue. Alumni include Cameron, Osborne and Johnson and the club seems to be a stomping ground for the future movers and shakers of the upper stratum of our society. The movie depicts Miles' (Irons) and Alistair's (Claflin) rise to glory in the Club and their subsequent fall from grace (though perhaps not...)
The movie centres around the dinner itself at a family run gastropub in the middle of nowhere. We are introduced to the meticulously proud owner who unwittingly accommodates the boys under the pretence they are a club of young entrepreneurs. As the dinner progresses the juxtaposition of the activity in the private dining room contrasted with the pub is excruciating. Birthday celebrations, families and normal people having a meal out is set against a seedy backdrop of hookers, wealth and debauched behaviour metres away in the back room. It's a sad watch and the climax is quite horrific.
The members of the club are superbly unpleasant. Pacing in the first and second acts is incredible, whilst the third loses a touch of momentum. We are introduced to these entertaining, sexy and glamorously fun young men, everyone laughs and you can see how someone like Miles could be drawn into the Club. Then the tone changes, it gets out of hand and escalates to a point that the previous laughter feels inappropriate and something to feel guilty of. The Riot Club may be a little heavy handed, deliberate and farfetched but at its core is a message that may be based on more than a unfair stereotype.
It's not entirely a political satire and as a project seems unsure whether it wants to be a teenage comedy or a cutting portrait of the ruling elite. Though perhaps that is the point; as a university student, the banter, socialect and repartee are believable and the initial humour created shows how these boys can be charming, lovable 'toffs' - not these vile caricatures that I expected.
However, The Riot Club does lack depth and insight. If the director's intention was to perpetuate the class divide and rile up the electorate prior to the next general election, the opportunity was missed. The film will certainly raise eyebrows and bring light to the darker side privilege but this is not revolutionary or shocking enough to enrage the cinema audiences. Still, it got under my skin and made me agree with a sentiment vocalised by Max Irons - if what the Bullingdon Club get up to is true, they're are just doing the same thing as the rioters did in London. The difference is, the rioters in London got a prison sentence and made an example of whereas the boys in the movie have been given every advantage, privilege and opportunity - yet do the same thing and can just pay for it while it all gets swept under the rug and forgotten about whilst they forge distinguished careers. This notion is reflected in the final scene; a clinical, accusatory snapshot of Britain's class system. It is indeed political, theatrical and shockingly entertaining but it just lacks a bit of much needed bite.
I don't quite predict a riot...