The Riot Club
dir Lone Scherfig
scr Laura Wade
prd Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin
with Sam Claflin, Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Holliday Grainger, Sam Reid, Freddie Fox, Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Olly Alexander, Gordon Brown, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Hollander, Natalie Dormer
release UK 19.Sep.14
14/UK Universal 1h47
The Riot Club
Brightest and best: Claflin and Irons

booth grainger reid
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Riot Club Based on Wade's play Posh, this film asks us to spend a couple of hours with some seriously reprehensible people. These privileged Oxford students are racist, misogynist snobs who will go on to run English society. Yes, this is a pointed jab at Britain's class system, so it's a shame that its never engaging.

New Oxford students Alistair and Miles (Claflin and Irons) come from posh families and are clearly suitable for membership in the elite Riot Club, made of the 10 brightest and best male students. Soon both find themselves initiated into the sparky, rambunctiously hedonistic group (which includes Booth, Reid, Fox, Beard, Schnetzer and Alexander). But Miles is teased for dating a common girl (Grainger), while Alistair swells with unconcealed rage at pretty much everything around him. And the club's next dinner party turns explosive.

Director Scherfig strongly captures the old-world trappings of young men who have never had to earn anything. Calling themselves the "brightest" is played for full irony, as their cruel antics display a deep loathing for anyone but themselves. The way they abuse the pub owner (Brown) and his daughter (Brown Findlay) who host their dinner is horrifying, as is their treatment of a high-class hooker (Dormer) they hire for the night. Although it's even more chilling that these are the men who end up leading UK politics and business.

The point of this club is to indulge in debauchery before the press takes notice of these young leaders. Their sense of entitlement knows no bounds, and they know they can pay off whoever they need to. So even though the young cast is excellent, the characters are utterly vile. Miles has been written as the lone voice of reason, but his complicity makes him just as bad. Only the women seem to have a conscience, and all three are sidelined in the film.

While Irons and Grainger build a nice sense of romantic chemistry, the bitterness Claflin aims at Irons never really makes sense aside from his relentless sneering. This makes what happens very difficult to believe, as the key elements of the plot barely seem to exist. And since there isn't a single male character with any sense of decency, there's no one who resonates at all. Instead it feels like a horror movie about everything that's wrong with Britain.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs 15.Sep.14

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