Wild Boys With No Bite: A Review of ‘The Riot Club’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - March 28, 2015
Wild Boys With No Bite: A Review of ‘The Riot Club’

It’s a world with some fairly rarified air and while we think it has advantages over the rest of us, it doesn’t always produce the best results.  The Riot Club is a bone chilling but very uneven look at the sense of privilege and entitlement in high society, as well as the dastardly results that it can produce.

In the hallowed halls of Oxford University, where the elite roam in search of a higher education, there is no society or fraternity that is more exclusive then that of “The Riot Club”, reserved for only the most privileged of English young men.  When Miles (Max Irons) a first year student with a laid back attitude is recruited to join, he thinks it’s funny, but he’s in for something he never expected.  In a case of upper class entitlement gone horribly wrong, things get very ugly when a dinner and night out drinking go horribly awry.

An interesting glimpse at the upper class littered with social commentary, The Riot Club almost had it right but pacing problems and a second half that felt a little too hollow ended up sinking what is a strong premise and story.

Sadly the stage and the screen, do not always translate as play writer and screenwriter Laura Wade learned the hard way adapting her material for the screen.  It was sharp and often funny but lacked any immediacy or vitality it just can sat there as we watched all these well to do young English men be as horrible as humanly possible.  Director Lone Scherfig did give it the old college try as the first half of the story tends to flow quite building up to the dramatic dinner in the second act, but the problem was the movie just spent far too much time on the dinner where everything just goes sideways and these men show their true colors.  By the end of it all, any genuine emotional impact was lost because we just felt numb to it all and it got fairly boring.  The pacing was never on track and the uneven feel of it all caused some decent performances to get wasted.

The Riot Club

Max Irons (son of Jeremy) is quickly coming into his own as a quality leading man.  With only ten screen credits to his name, he can command a room and we believe him as Miles Richards, a young man just trying to navigate the complicated halls of one of the most prestigious universities in the entire world.  The journey for him is like a slow moving train wreck, you know it is coming but you just can’t help but watch it unfold.  Sam Claflin slides into the entitled ass role with such ease that it is just a marvel to see, and as the two new recruits they show both the good and terrible side of the upper crust.  Sadly outside of Douglas Booth as Harry Villiers who had a hand in recruiting both men, none of the supporting cast get any genuine moments and the overlong middle act where they are simply debating each other on topics of the day and being generally horrible, not much else happens.  When you add that to the fact that even our two leads don’t have a great deal of depth to the characters, so much of what this movie is trying to say feels like a wasted exercise.

Ultimately, The Riot Club was a nice idea for a movie but it couldn’t shake the upper class shine as much as it wanted to in order to be something not only horrifying, but memorable as well since us as an audience baring witness to all of these actions, which granted are pointless but in a movie nothing is ever supposed to feel pointless.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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