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article imageReview: ‘The Riot Club’ inspires conversation, but is it the right one? Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 27, 2015 in Entertainment
The authentic performances in ‘The Riot Club’ make it difficult to watch, but it does not add much to the conversation of inequality.
With all the indignation currently directed at white men in power and people of privilege around the world, it’s interesting to view a movie that exemplifies all the qualities despised in the advantageous. This film particularly takes aim at the old boys clubs and secret societies that purportedly allow and encourage disrespectful behaviour because their members have the resources to “make it go away.” The Riot Club begins as a group of boys united by their love of women and trouble, but gradually turns ugly as their above average station in life becomes a weapon against the less fortunate.
The Riot Club was established when Lord Riot (Harry Lloyd), a young, adventurous man, was murdered by his lover’s husband. To celebrate their friend’s untimely demise, his cohorts established the club in his honour to love and live life to the fullest as he did. More than a century later, the tradition endures at Oxford University. The current membership requires two more bodies to meet its quota so they begin to scout the first-year students. Miles Richards (Max Irons) and Alistair Ryle (Sam Claflin) could not be more different from each other, but each has qualities the club admires; namely they are wealthy, smart and attractive. Their initiations are followed by an annual dinner, which is transformed into a drunken rally for supremacy.
This movie is a darker version of The Skulls in that it deals with a similarly rooted secret society, but without the sexy soundtrack or cool heist sequence. The behaviour of these young men is generally appalling. Their utter disregard for material things, expecting everyone to be effortlessly bought and boundless egotism only scratch the surface of what is inherently wrong with them. Miles is the only member with any redeeming qualities, though even he is complicit until their underlying superiority complexes begin to show through.
On the other hand, the overt prejudice and ease with which they are incited to live up to the club’s name is somewhat heavy-handed. This is clearly a condemnation of the upper class from the moment audiences are introduced to the characters and one’s father is demanding his son be assigned their family’s traditional dorm room. The flexing of their affluent muscles remain restrained until the dinner, but it’s also clear from the moment they step foot in the establishment that the party will get dangerously out of hand.
Nonetheless, credit must be awarded the actors who portray these despicable young men for not holding back and embracing even their characters’ worst moments to the fullest. This is a feat of particular distinction for Claflin, Sam Reid and Douglas Booth who have been far more charming in recent film history as heroes and love interests rather than pompous brats. Not to be forgotten, Holliday Grainger is admirable, essentially portraying the film’s sole female voice. She not only confronts the pitfalls of the company of entitled men, but must also face the derision of belonging to a lower class.
Laura Wade adapted her play for the screen and under Lone Scherfig’s direction, the film does not attempt to extend the story world further than is required. After all, the key decisions are mostly made behind closed doors or away from the prying eyes and ears of commoners anyway.
Director: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Sam Claflin, Max Irons and Douglas Booth
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