The Riot Club
- Emma Simmonds
- 15 September 2014
Lone Scherfig's appropriately nasty drama features a star turn from Sam Claflin
Adapted by Laura Wade from her own play Posh, The Riot Club violently disabuses us of the notion that those who rule us might do so from a good place. Wade and director Lone Scherfig knock the uber-privileged off their pedestal by turning puffed-up princes into monsters. But by hammering home the invulnerability and continued dominance of a particular breed of upper class twit and drawing a thick line between us and them, the filmmakers ensure it's the proletariat audience who suffer, emerging sick and sullied on the other side.
The Riot Club of the title is a thinly disguised Bullingdon Club (of which David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson were famously members), here an exclusive Oxford University society comprising just ten men, selected for their public school credentials and potential for hang-it-all hedonism. Into this nest of bully boys steps affable undergrad Miles (Max Irons). Miles is courted by the club alongside the nasty Alistair (Sam Claflin). The film builds to the club's infamous dinner, taking place in the back room of a nice country pub, which becomes increasingly, aggressively vile and into which Miles' girlfriend (Holliday Grainger) is drawn.
The Riot Club wrong-foots us with cheesy romance and an irreverent opener before descending into the darkness of the dinner. Claflin stands out as the villainous Alistair; we watch his personal humiliations accumulate as he rises to his full, hideously hateful potential. Scherfig's eighth feature is an appropriately discomforting, immersive watch, being both gruelling and galling as it illustrates that – in their unshakeable belief in their own inherent superiority – just how dangerously antisocial these young men are. It might at first seem like a comedy but, with its mounting horrors and nod to those currently in charge, sadly it's clear that the joke is on us.
General release from Fri 19 Sep.