A Riotous Good Time: Our Review of ‘Riot Girls’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - September 11, 2019
A Riotous Good Time: Our Review of ‘Riot Girls’

Director Jovanka Vuckovic’s Riot Girls takes place in a small town in an alternate 1995, where a virus has killed all of the adults and now the remaining young people live in two communities separated by a bridge; the nefarious “Titans” to the West and the heroic punk rock kids to the East. 

That premise above conjures up The Socs and The Greasers from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, and some elements of West Side Story as well. Further, the “Titans” regime is ruled by the oldest boy in town, the ruthless Jeremy (Munro Chambers), and his method of rule is quite evocative of Randall Flagg’s Las Vegas community in Stephen King’s The Stand (the fact that a virus is the impetus for this story lends credence to this comparison). There’s also a smattering of Lord of the Flies in here as well, just for good measure. 

Riot Girls is not without its problems, but it is a wild ride. Clocking in at just 81 minutes, the film burns like a comet, particularly as it’s driven by a fun and frenetic punk rock soundtrack and some over-the-top violence. 

Admittedly the acting is hit-or-miss. While there are a few performers that really stand out (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’s Madison Iseman specifically), there are a number of performances that come across as a little bit high school drama club. Having written that, this film is corny and goofy, and it revels in that, so even the sillier performances don’t overly detract. 

The film is presented almost as a graphic novel; it opens and closes with comic panels to set up the world in the beginning, and to provide closure to the story in the end. Throughout, the movie is edited with a similar style, often pulling the camera out at the end of a scene to reveal other panels before dollying into the next. This gives the movie a stylized look that I quite enjoyed. 

Riot Girls isn’t frequently violent (the majority of the violence happens out of frame), but when it goes there, it goes there pretty hard. There are only a few overly violent sequences, but the movie pulls no punches. 

The film does get a little goofy at times. All of the “Titans” upper brass wear matching varsity jackets, and we have such characters as Scratch, Sony, Fish, Spit, Flick, and Cracker. Sure, these are likely gang monikers that bring thoughts of the aforementioned West Side Story, or perhaps The Warriors, but they do come across as a little silly. Still, the film is purposefully playing in the sandbox of silly, and it’s a better movie for it. 

While it is a raucous bash that enjoys its fleeting run-time, the ending is incredibly jarring and rushed. The film builds to a final confrontation, and it all goes down in maybe three minutes of real time. I would have liked for this showdown sequence to have been able to breathe a little bit. Still, while Riot Girls (presumably by design) won’t win any Oscars, it sure is a good time at the movies.

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