FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
The Riot Club
RPL Film Theatre
When they’re not starring in dystopian teenage dramas, Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games), Max Irons (The Host) and Douglas Booth (Jupiter Ascending) are capable of acting. All three are genuinely dislikeable in The Riot Club, the film adaptation of the controversial play Posh.
Inspired by the distasteful activities of an exclusive dining club at Oxford University, The Riot Club follows two aristocratic prospects, Alistair and Miles (Irons and Claflin), as they attempt to join the group. Because of his leftist leanings, Alistair does it reluctantly. Miles, however, is wired for the club’s hedonistic lifestyle, positive his social status will protect him if his misbehaviour catches up with him. He is not wrong.
Directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education), The Riot Club is sometimes horrifying. The callousness, xenophobia and casual sexism is upsetting, but not more than the way the group justifies its actions using their social status (like a British Donald Trump).
The drama is also realistic about consquences for upper-crust misbehaviour: limited or non-existent.
The film’s centerpiece is a posh dinner at a townie pub: the boys attend with destruction on their minds, decency be damned. It’s disturbing how quickly the voice of reason can be silenced by lesser concerns like peer perception and copious amounts of alcohol. From a cinematic perspective, the tension management is masterful. Too bad the rest of the film’s ongoing hooliganism gets monotonous after a while.
One could consider this film excessive, if not for the fact that the actions depicted in The Riot Club have been well-documented. In fact, the lodge was modeled after The Bullingdon Club, a Tory den that once embraced England’s current PM David Cameron. Boys will be boys, right?