It may sound like a posh version of the David Fincher film, and in many ways that’s what the Riot Club offers us. This British thriller adapted from the play Posh which is a fictionalised version of the Bullingdon Club, and it is a very different take on the college experience. For any of our friends across the pond, not all British clubs are this violent, unless it’s a night out in Blackpool.
Harming newcomers at Oxford University to study history, but the pair soon get the attention of the infamous Riot Club. The centuries old organisation regularly meets to dine, drink and the occasional excessive indulgence. Anarchy and tragedy are almost guaranteed.
Rather than being a posher version of Fight Club, as the trailer and title might lead you to believe, it’s much more of a political and social satire, with a dark sense of humour that I love. For the first half we see the usual plot points of any other college film, with a bit more upper class though. The awkward situation of being the new guys, the fag-ends, the popular social giants, the jokers and nearly every other archetype you can think of. The class warfare and conspiracy of Britain, fictional or not, is an entertaining scenario at that.
This film is brilliantly cast as well. The ensemble of British talent on offer here makes a frighteningly believable portrayal of the arrogant and violent youngsters that makes the film very engrossing and utterly impossible not to be dragged into the plot. While the first half may seem a tad predictable, the rest will really take it to the next level. The cast interact superbly and the rites of passage to join the Riot Club may appear to be traditional on the surface, but… well all I can say is brace yourself.
The juxtaposition of events is wonderfully laid out. During the day we see normality of family meals and life in the so called average world. At night there’s drinking contests in Latin, escorts, humiliation and of course rioting. The slow motion fighting and champagne spraying montages make it look deplorable and desirable simultaneously.
The film does have its flaws. All of these wonderful extravagant elements make it feel a bit staged. While I do love the fact that it’s adapted so well from the stage to the screen, but you never can lose that exaggerated feel to the impact of the film. Normally that would be very enjoyable, but the Riot Club doesn’t feel like that kind of film. And as well as that it is really trying too hard to hammer the themes and moral messages into the audience, with a film as upper class as this you would think that they would trust our intelligence enough to leave us to work it out ourselves, which would not be that hard anyway.
But regardless, the dark comedy, and shadowy side of privilege as well as a rather unsettling reminder of how repulsive the future rulers of the world can be. It’s sharp and satirical, with a unique perspective that becomes an engrossing and powerful film.