The Riot Club (2014) Review – A Bit of a Pussy Cat

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The Riot Club is directed by Lone Scherfig is a graduate of the Danish Film school and was responsible for One Day (2011) which starred Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.  Her filmography to date has focused on coming of age tales and this film fits the resume.  The film is based on a play called Posh that did the rounds back in 2010 and the writer of said play, Laura Wade, was employed to adapt it for the big screen.

The film focuses on the antics of the ‘legendary’ Riot Club based at Oxford University.  The Riot Club is in turn based loosely on the real life Bullingdon Club whose alumni includes the current British Prime Minster, David Cameron.  The club is reputedly made up of the best and the brightest of the British elite, and as the introduction to he film shows, was established way-back-when in memory of Lord Riot (not technically spelled that way) who died after being caught enjoying the company of another mans wife.

At the start of the new academic year the club is down two members and so launches ‘Operation Grasshopper’ to identify two candidates in time for the next club meal.  One potential new member is Alistair Ryle (Sam Claflin) whose older brother was once president of The Riot Club.  The other is Miles Richards (Max Irons) who attended the right school (Westminster) and whose family has a long history at Oxford.  The two get into the club and it is at the dinner where the clubs excessive behaviour gets out of control which has consequences for Miles in particular.

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The film makers worked hard to bring together a cool hip cast of up and comers.  Claflin is best known for his role as Finnick in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) but he was also in Snow White And The Huntsman (2012) and Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011).  Irons was in The Host (2013) and the film also features Ben Schnetzer who was in the frankly brilliant Pride (2014) and Douglas Booth who featured in Noah (2014) and Romeo & Juliet (2013).

So we have a talented cast, a director who specialises in this field and a screen writer with a background on the stage.  Does it work?  Not really.  I am not setting out to say this is a poor film it’s just average at best.  The film sets up Alistair and Miles as the two antagonists.  Alistair is the toff who hates poor people while Miles is the apparent hero with a more egalitarian attitude which brings them into conflict.  To make things worse Miles finds it easier to talk to the ladies which leads to jealousy as Alistair attempts to sabotage his budding relationship with Lauren (Holliday Grainger).

The problem is that the tension between these two characters is a little tepid and reflects the timid nature of the film as a whole.  It has a scene intended to show off the spoilt nature of the members of The Riot Club as one of them posts the keys of an Aston Marin through the post box of a charity shop.  This is in preference to cleaning up the unfortunate outpouring of another character who has drunk a little too much.  Ok, so what?  The climax of the film is supposed to be the club dinner that has to take place miles out of the city because they’ve been banned from anywhere local.  They then proceed to smash the pub up as the drink and drugs take affect but it doesn’t feel raucous or visceral.

The film fails to commit to the excess in the way that The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) did and as such I couldn’t get excited by it.  There was potential in the concept.  They could have gone down the route of dark humour or analysed the motivations of the members of the club in more detail.  Sadly (for me at least) in plays out in predictable fashion and even as it delivered its down beat (for the hero) ending I was already reaching for my jacket.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. I agree with you about the film’s commitment to excesses re Wolf Of Wall Street. For me Riot Club veered too much towards the sensationalist and, as you say, not enough towards dark analysis. Great review.

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    1. wantnewideas says:

      Always good to hear some positive feedback about a post. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  2. thycriticman says:

    That is a real shame! The Wolf of Wall Street pushed the boundaries so far that everything else that tackles similar badassery will likely fail in the process. And predictable is never good! I’ll go into this expecting much less when it eventually plays here!

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