Verdict: 3 / 5
Boys will be boys”, people often say, but when a simple slap on the wrist is given to aristocrats tossing money at lower class as compensation for their immoral behavior, it’s sickening.
Based on the play Posh by Laura Wade, The Riot Club aims to give insight to the “exclusive Oxford University dining society.” Wade did research about such wealthy societies back in 2007, but state that the characters and action are fictional. However, many feel there’s strong comparison to the (real) Oxford Bullingdon Club. It is hard to believe that such people could exist, but it isn’t farfetched, perhaps only slightly exaggerated, or so we hope.
The Riot Club is short two members and club president James (Freddie Fox) challenges his party to find suitable candidates. Traditionally, only descendants of former club members are allowed, with the odd exception. If they lack the esteemed title, they must be incredibly rich, have gone to the right school (Eton, Westminster or Harrow) and must have the makings of a legend (whatever that entails). Named after a Lord Ryot, a student caught copulating with a professor’s wife in the 1700’s, this man became the embodiment of a legendary gentleman. The example that these students hope to live up to. Why they chose to honor a man known for his licentious behavior is beyond me. “Eat till we are sick at the full table of life and never fade from glory.”
Alistair Ryle (Sam Claflin) and Miles Richard (Max Irons) are the perfect candidates. Although from the start it is clear that these are very different individuals. Alistair clearly has a chip on his shoulder and a grotesque need of self-entitlement. He lives in the shadow of his older brother Sebastian, a former president of the club. Miles, however, is relaxed and open to adventure. He starts dating Lauren, whom his future club members disapprove of as she is of ‘lower class.’
Before being made an official member, the two first years must undergo a series of tests as part of the initiation tradition. Miles does so effortlessly, while Alistair is far too competitive and views Miles as a rival rather than a ‘brother’. Malice roams in his heart and waits for the opportune moment to strike.
Evidently this is what the audience hopes for, as the whole first act of ‘better than thou because we are rich’ display of pompous brats is tedious to watch. You are handsome, rich and connected – we get it!
Late nights, excessive drinking, drugs and promiscuity seem to be the norm. After being banned from most restaurants in the nearby area, they resort to a humble country pub, to host their annual dinner. The newly formed ‘brotherhood’ is short lived as the evening results in vandalism, verbal and physical assault and bloodshed. Quickly the members turn on each other, as their ‘honorable’ legacy is at stake and they connive a way to avoid jail.
The ten members make up the typical archetype, such as the Casanova (Douglas Booth), the Iago type (Sam Claflin), the homosexual (Sam Reid), the sweetheart (Max Irons) and the ‘foreigner’ (Ben Schnetzer) yes that one in the group that isn’t 100% Brit, and is constantly reminded of it. Although the performances are on point, it is easy to forget who is who, as you see a blur of attractive young men, with similar features, mannerisms and speech patterns. So you focus on the two newcomers.
Unfortunately, even with a charmingly talented cast, the script doesn’t satisfy. It doesn’t offer any genuine remorse or justice. Just a lingering stench of narcissism dressed in a designer suit.