I was shocked and fascinated at the same time by the darker side of the British class system with exceptional thriller The Riot Club. Judging from the trailer, I expected many different gatherings of the Riot Club and was somewhat surprised that the main part of the film was just one single night at a pub in Wales. But what a night it was! The posh boys went wild.
But let's start from the beginning, which is a rather funny flashback of how the Riot Club was founded in the 18th century. The camera then follows Miles (Max Irons, The White Queen), during his first days at Oxford University. Also new on board is Alistair Ryle, played by Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games). To say it in the words of the Riot Club, a "rather unhappy looking chap", who seemingly did not have much choice when choosing his university. Of course, his father and grandfather studied at Oxford as well – and they even stayed in exactly the same room.
Miles and Alistair then pass some questionable tests and are eventually admitted to the club. At the same time, Miles starts a relationship with Lauren, played by Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) and the boys head to Wales for their notorious night out. On their mission to get totally smashed, or how they call it, "château'd", they end up actually smashing the room into pieces. There is a nasty run-in with Lauren and an even nastier one with the pub's landlord.
In the summer of 2013, the crew was spotted at Oxford University and in Magpie Lane in the town centre of Oxford, England. Further filming took place at Winchester College, which is another very expensive private school for boys aged 13 to 18, as well as Pinewood Studios.
In a Sky Behind-the-scenes interview, cast member Jessica Brown Findlay (she plays the pub owner's daughter and waitress Rachel) said very fittingly: At the beginning you find yourself laughing with them, but as you see the more darker side of these posh young men, you feel almost guilty about having laughed in the beginning. This certainly applied to me as well.
"Within minutes, the story switches from very funny to really scary"
There were indeed quite a few funny moments in the first half of the film. For example when Ben Schnetzer, who plays a super-rich Greek student called Dimitri, gets the windscreen of his luxury convertible puked upon by another club member. Dimitri stops the car and just throws the keys through the letter box of a Charity for the Homeless shop. His comment: "The ashtray was full anyway". His companion's comment: "What are you doing? The homeless don't even know how to drive!"
The main message, I think, is that some of Britain's so-called upper class graduates somehow manage to get away with a lot of bad things. Simply by buying their way out of it. But, as one once again learns in this film, money can't buy you everything. Certainly not dignity. In this respect, I think that Alistair's outburst "I am sick to death of poor people!" captures the main idea quite well.
My final verdict: Well done, but this film will leave you with a really bad gut feeling!
**** 4 out of 5 stars