Riot Club

Spoiled Rotten and Needing Toff Love

Ahhhh Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, home of one of the world’s best Universities, one of the world’s best boat teams and me; a guy who is haphazardly slapping together reviews of films.

I grew up in a little village south of Oxford and I remember long ago helping out as a parking attendant at a local horse race. I ushered a Land Rover to park up and move along the row. Eventually when I get back to the Land Rover a couple of buck toothed twenty-somethings are dragging a hamper, laden with Champagne, out of the boot of the car. A voice calls out towards the front seat “Daddy?! Oh daddy….”. Fucking Toffs, I thought. Speaking of which; I just watched the Riot Club!

So the Riot club is based on a completely factual social club in Oxford University called the Bullingdon club. It’s a club that has seen some of the UK’s most powerful and influential members of society such as the Mayor of London Borris Johnson and our very own Prime Minister David Cameron. Think of it as something similar to how many of America’s greatest (and George Bush) have been part of the secret Skull & Bones brotherhood.

The Riot club, like the Bullingdon, is made up of a carefully selected group of the brightest and wealthiest students in Oxford. The film starts with the Riot club looking for two new members. They focus their sights on Alistair Ryles (Sam Claflin) and Miles Richards (Max Irons), two freshers at the uni.

One of my favourite films of all time is called Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa and this is because the characters are so well developed that you really get to know each persons character. This is something that the Riot Club also does very well. Alistair is staunchly conservative, Miles is the good guy led astray, Harry is the pretty-boy womaniser, Hugo is a slightly disillusioned closet homosexual, Guy and Toby are like Wingus and Dingus; clever but categorically hopeless with women.

Of course, this would mean nothing without the actors behind them who all do a great job of bringing the characters to life. Ben Schnetzer for me stands out here, even though he could be considered a lesser member of the club his recent performance in Pride puts him in good stead to become a man in high demand.

Obviously the script also helps to develop the characters but aside from crafting some ruddy marvelous posh talk it also slowly builds up the underlying subtext to the film. The induction process is an enjoyable series of events as the club forces dirty pints, self humiliation and tests of intellect on the new starters. After this the film hits it’s low point as the works towards one of the clubs infamous dinner nights and it’s here that not only holds the films best scene but the true nature of the club’s members is laid bare for all to see.

As conservatives with extreme views they each share a bizarre belief that they are somehow better than the rest of society because they are rich, because they are at Oxford or because Daddy was a notable figure even though it is clear that most of them are desperate individuals with the social aptitude of a half-eaten yule log. Repeatedly during the dinner perceived slights are thrown on the groups prestige by getting cheap wine, an inaccurate food menu, requests to quieten down, rejected by a prostitute etc.

All of this is like drip feeding LSD to howler monkeys. The first couple of drops might be OK but eventually they’ll go fucking nuts. You look at each club member in this scene with growing disdain wishing you could croquet their faces in. Whilst this is testiment to how powerful the scene is you are also acutely aware of the sad realisation that these people will probably get away with the shocking conclusion to the dinner and then go on to be some of Britain’s wealthiest and powerful constituents.

If we take a step back at how this is a reflection of a real society you have to wonder how far removed from the truth this film really is? Let’s face it, probably not very. That’s the world we live in where power is pretty much predetermined even if we think that our democracy has elected such officials. Vote Green. Vote blue. Vote Griffendor. Vote anyone, just don’t be a dick.

Go See

  • Brilliant characters
  • Evocative dinner scene
  • Funny Rah talk

Avoid

  • Slow build up to the dinner
  • If you think politics is as interesting as dinner with Gordon Brown
  • If you’re a Labour supporter!

Overall

4-stars

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