The Riot Club movie review: bad boys never lose

part of my Directed by Women series
MaryAnn’s quick take: Hooray for a good old-fashioned rich-bastard bashing. But they get the last laugh: These guys are the future masters of the universe. Hooray.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read (or seen) the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
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Hooray for a good old-fashioned rich-bastard bashing. Oh, don’t worry: They don’t have feelings, and even if they did, they wouldn’t care what us poor proles think of them. Anyway, they’ll get the last laugh: One of these guys is probably a future UK prime minister. Fictionally speaking, of course.

Not at all based on the notorious Oxford University secret society the Bullingdon Club (David Cameron is a former member), this is a completely 100-percent made-up tale of Oxford’s Riot Club, a literal old boys club whose overprivileged, underhuman members enjoy “debauchery raised to an art” and do not enjoy working-class slobs who dare to be unimpressed by their money or women who don’t know their place (ie, on their knees in front of them).

Miles (Max Irons: The Host) is the “nice” new member who goes along with the abusive initiation rituals and subsequent appalling antisocial behavior, but he feels somewhat bad about it afterward, awww. I suspect that screenwriter Laura Wade (adapting her play Posh) and director Lone Scherfig (One Day) intend for us to have some tender, sympathetic feelings for Miles, but not so much: most nonsociopathic people do not need to actually participate in acts of depraved barbarity in order to know that we don’t like them.

I don’t mean this as a criticism of the film! The fact that even the “nice” character is pretty much an awful person only contributes to the incisive yet schadenfreude-y takedown of power and privilege on offer here… the potential cheapness of which is avoided via the more subtle smackdown of us for enjoying it, because the film also makes it clear that there is almost nothing these guys could do that would threaten their glorious futures as our overlords.

The cast of young up-and-comers — also including Sam Claflin (The Quiet Ones), Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations), Sam Reid (Belle), and Ben Schnetzer (Pride; seriously, keep an eye out for Schnetzer) — is fantastic, and there’s all sorts of terrible suspense to be had in waiting to see precisely what crimes the Riot Club will gleefully commit with impunity. Hooray.

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Fri, Sep 19, 2014 12:36am

Ok, ya!

Steve Gagen
Steve Gagen
Fri, Sep 19, 2014 11:51am

Looks interesting – will see when it’s on here.

Thu, Sep 25, 2014 12:37pm

If this film had been released a month before the Scot Indy vote; especially in view of the the major victim of the film being portrayed as an honest, decent Scots publican in England trying to build a business, improve himself and pay his daughter’s £27k school-fees .. it just might have assisted the ‘Yes’ campaign by affirming and confirming strongly held anti-Westminster prejudices! Utter crap film though, with a totally predictable outcome. Did contain some good performances, however..

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  RGR
Thu, Sep 25, 2014 7:41pm

What was crap?