The Nottingham student experience is pretty amazing. However, The Riot Club takes the typical student experience to a whole new level. Focusing on ten of Oxford’s brightest, the titular club prides itself in debauchery of the highest order, which makes for entertaining viewing, until it’s taken too far and becomes really dark.
The titular club, based on Oxford’s unofficial Bullingdon Club, joins together ten of the most spoilt, arrogant, rich and(supposedly) bright that our leading educational institutions has to offer. During the course of meetings, the boys take drugs, get completely smashed, hire prostitutes and then destroy the establishment they are in.
Sadly, with 10 members of the club, the film doesn’t quite manage to flesh out all of the characters, meaning two or three of the leads seem more like stereotypes than actual characters. However, Max Irons, Sam Claflin and Holliday Grainger all shine as good-guy Miles, poor-bashing toff Alistair and Mile’s charming (but middle-class) girlfriend. The first half of the film feels very comedic, with the super-poshness of the boys being used to great effect. In particular, Miles and Lauren’s word comparison conversation is both a cute character moment while also emphasising the class barrier their relationship is breaking.
However, the ‘posh Inbetweeners’ tone of the first half is obliterated by the dark turn of events in the final dinner. In ‘Posh’, Laura Wade’s 2010 play on which Riot Club is based, the carnage feels riotously liberating. On screen however, it’s significantly more sinister and intimidating. While it starts with the boys simply berating the nine bird roast’ for not quite being a ten bird roast, as events begin to spiral out of control, the rest of the film somewhat sours. The sheltered worlds of the boys shines through and their total disconnect with the ‘real’ world is almost sickening – especially when the club this film is based on has alumni that include David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
With strong performances from the main cast and some chuckle-worthy moments, The Riot Club is enjoyable enough. However, fond memories of the first half are obliterated by the shockingly dark turn the film takes in its climactic scenes.