UK Release Date: 20th September 2014
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: Lone Scherfig
Writer: Laura Wade
Starring: Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger, Douglas Booth, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Hollander, Gordon Brown
Synopsis: A group of revolting toffs cause chaos at a peaceful country pub when they stage a dinner there for their debauched drinking society.
In an age of austerity, with a Tory-led coalition in Downing Street, the class divide is at the heart of British society. With that in mind, Laura Wade’s acclaimed stage play Posh was an incendiary look at the debauched inner workings of Oxford drinking culture. It makes its way to the big screen in the ugly, but utterly gripping, shape of The Riot Club.
Miles (Max Irons) and Alistair (Sam Claflin) enrol at Oxford University and immediately appear on the radar of the titular anarchic society. As the club descends upon Chris’ (Gordon Brown) country pub for a chaotic dinner, Miles finds his relationship with Lauren (Holliday Grainger) threatened and boundary-free frivolity leads to something a lot darker.
Comparisons have readily been made between the fictional society of The Riot Club and the real-life Bullingdon Club, of which David Cameron and George Osborne were members. Whether these parallels ring true or not, the film remains a confrontational look at the impact of hideous wealth and a life lived without fear of consequences.
| "I am sick to fucking death… of poor people."
The centrepiece of The Riot Club is the deeply suspenseful dinner sequence, which formed the bulk of Wade’s play and also dominates her film adaptation. An Education director Lone Scherfig perfectly controls the escalating tension throughout to create a palpable sense of foreboding and dread as the boys throw champagne down their throats and begin to cause trouble.
British acting talent is on show at every level of the film, with countless Game of Thrones alumni butting heads with an array of the UK’s best comedy stars. The cast sparkles, with Tom Hollander and Holliday Grainger doing great work with limited screen time. There’s also a memorable cameo from Natalie Dormer as a prostitute who becomes one of the first people to refuse to give these people what they want.
Sam Claflin, best known as Finnick in The Hunger Games franchise, is an absolute revelation as the revolting Alistair Ryle. His early nerves give way to a broiling hatred that becomes increasingly terrifying as the film progresses towards its violent conclusion.
| "People like us don’t make mistakes."
When the film’s horrifying third act begins, the building tension boils over into an explosion of brutality. It’s a scene of real power that both shocks and infuriates, aided by a series of utterly terrific performances. This is the moment that The Riot Club hinges on and it’s certainly not a disappointment. It’s as grisly as any horror film and as enthralling as any thriller.
The Riot Club is a film that leaves an immaculate bootprint on the face of its audience. It’s a reminder of the chilling power afforded by wealth in Britain.
Pop or Poop?
Simmering with tension, The Riot Club is a brutal melting pot of a movie with a lot to say about the role of wealth in British society.
Sam Claflin is incredible as villainous toff Ryle, amply supported by a who’s-who of the best young acting talent in the country.
Gripping at every turn and populated by characters who are genuinely worth hating, the film is an often funny, but always chilling take on modern Britain.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.