Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening.
ActorsStarring: Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Jessica Brown Findlay, Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Holliday Grainger, Sam Reid, Tom Hollander, Olly Alexander, Ben Schnetzer
The Riot Club is an exclusive posh boys club at Oxford University, and to keep their membership number at a prescribed 10, two new recruits are sought.
Apparently the Riot Club is (loosely?) based on the real-life Oxford Bullingdon Club, which has had some (in)famous members like PM David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson. It’s that kind of background that brings a level of interest to the movie: the first half or so the boys do an excellent job portraying themselves as proudly priviliged and spoilt twats that you love to hate. And that makes you wonder whether such people and behaviour still exists in the upper echelons of the British social hierarchy.
But that in itself doesn’t make for an interesting movie (at all) yet. So the boys’ behaviour then deteriorates into more debauchery, building up to the main event at a remote pub.
As a movie The Riot Club misses the mark however. It does an excellent job of positioning its members as appalling characters, but the plot is a bit too simple. It is really all about one night of depravity in a pub – which may well be due to the fact that this is an adapted stage play – but it doesn’t give enough depth to the real nature of the club. It is not a ‘Wolf of Wall Street for Frat Boys’ in its debauchery, and it certainly isn’t anywhere near a Clockwork Orange in its wickedness.
It is actually… too tame. Which sounds like the wrong thing to say if you know what happens in the movie. But as a movie, it doesn’t shock enough to be a truly impactful indictment of the ‘British upper class white-male privilege club’. It actually feels more like ‘just’ a club of posh twats that are out of touch with normal life, and thus happily and haughtily live their lives above the populace.
The obvious question that lingers is whether people so arrogantly out of touch with normal society are today still indeed the ones who get to highly influential positions in that same society… But the movie lacks the depth or satire to play out that link.
Overall it makes for an interesting watch, and leaves you happily hating most of the characters so it has enough impact for you to care. But not enough to make a difference. It is not a movie people will talk about in years from now. Shame.