Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Riot Club - film review

The Riot Club is a film from last year, based on Laura Wade's successful play Posh. Rather like The History Boys, it has an ensemble cast of mainly young actors, including the sons of those fine actors Jeremy Irons and Edward Fox. Tom Hollander, who has a fairly minor role as a sinister MP (is there any other kind?) is perhaps the best-known name, but the quality of the acting is consistently high.

The eponymous club has historic origins and is based in Oxford University. In essence, it's a collection of ten rich, posh young men with a taste for drink and debauchery. There's a disclaimer in the credits, but it doesn't take a great detective to suspect that Wade is having a swipe at the Bullingdon Club. A pretty easy target to aim at, it has to be said.

This is a story about the abuse of privilege, but it's perhaps most impressive if seen as a story about gang culture. The members of the Riot Club behave in a way that is offensive and deeply unpleasant, just like members of other gangs. In this story two new members are recruited, and a dinner is organised at a gastro-pub far distant from Oxford, because the Riot Club has been banned from everywhere nearer. As the lads become more and more drunk, things turn increasingly, and very predictably, nasty.

This is a well-made and, for all its lack of subtlety, extremely watchable film. I enjoyed it, although I couldn't identify with it in the way I could with some aspects of The History Boys. I felt that the script panders to prejudices - possibly including my own prejudices, given that, although I studied at Oxford, I was neither posh nor rich, and nor were my friends. That said, it makes some good points, as well as facile ones. I did wonder if young Irons and Fox felt slightly uncomfortable about some of the criticism of inherited privilege. But there's no reason why they should. They are clearly very good actors, and it seems likely that they will have highly successful careers..  


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

This sounds better than I thought it might be frankly - thanks Martin, shall seek it out!

Martin Edwards said...

Yes, despite that lack of subtlety, it's well done. Hope you enjoy it, Sergio.