When I saw the trailer for The Riot Club, I thought, “Ooh pretty posh boys.” Shallow as it is, even if the film wasn’t that great, I was happy to have a bit of eye candy in the form of Sam Claflin (of Hunger Games fame), Max Irons (son of Jeremy) and Douglas Booth (most recent on-screen Romeo to fall for Juliet). But I was pleasantly surprised.
While the first half of the film was fairly fun and frivolous, the latter party of the film takes a turn down a dark route. I actually left the cinema feeling a bit repulsed by these characters. They were not just pretty faces, it takes some good acting chops to really make someone despise you.
Set at Oxford University, the film follows the new intake into the Riot Club, a secret society of debauchery for only the ten most elite boys at the university. Based on the film Posh, the society is loosely based on the Bullingdon Club, whose alumni include David Cameron and Boris Johnson. The play was written as a social commentary and the film is also seeped in satire, highlighting the ludicrous antics these boys engage in, simply because they can. They don’t care about consequences, because they can always solve the problem with (their parents) money.
The nastiest piece of work in the film is portrayed by Claflin, a fresher who has a big brother-shaped chip on his shoulder. An arrogant arse who shows no remorse for his actions at any point…. On the other end of the spectrum is Irons’ Miles, who does actually posses a conscience, but also possess a title, The Honourable Miles Richards And thus is a prime target for the Riot Club, and quite gladly joins as he fits the bill.
His girlfriend Lauren, however, does not. A character which was not present in the play, Lauren is an example of the kind of Oxford University student we are more used to seeing these days, someone who got in on academic merit and not riding on anyone’s Etonian or Harovian coat tails. You may even go as far to describe the ‘normal’ northern girl as working class.
Lone Scherfig does a brilliant job of leading the film from the satirical smugness of Booth and his gang of bratty aristocrats having some banter to the literally darker scenes, the lighting is very atmospheric, that show the boys that some actions do have consequences that cannot be solved with money. You may laugh out loud at the beginning, but you’ll be wincing by the time the credits roll.