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The Riot Club
Genre Thriller
 
Review:

The Riot Club is an adaptation of the stage play Posh, which follows two first-year students at Oxford University, who are recruited by the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed overnight.

This is a film by Lone Scherfig, who directed the initiate drama An Education with Carey Mulligan. She doesn't shy away from delivering an uncomfortable atmosphere, unlikable characters and taunting us with some thrilling moments where anything can and does happen. While it's not nearly on the same level as Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, The Riot Club has a mean streak and isn't for sensitive viewers.

The film delves into the traditions and initiations of an elitist fraternity and group of reckless young men trying to outdo their previous generation in hedonisitc rebellion. It's like The Skulls, except the focus isn't on inordinate wealth, but on ideology and the ugliest extremes of toffee-nosed snobbery. Their recruitment, secrecy and infamous debauchery drives them to new levels of insanity, dressing like lords and behaving like animals.

The ensemble's performance is generally sharp and flamboyant. Sam Claflin delivers a fiendish and despicable co-lead as the bitter and twisted Alistair Ryle trying to live up to and displace his brother's reputation. Max Irons plays Miles Richards, the straight man in the dysfunctional brotherhood. He's our sense of normalcy in all the debauchery, enchanted by the title yet disenchanted by the reality. As the most likable bloke of the lot, we find much empathy in his misguided character. While Harry Lloyd sets the cart of filth in motion with an amusing send up as the original Lord Riot, making you wish they'd spent more time with the origin story.

The writing is dense, uproariously pretentious and charged with politics and poetry. The wicked sense of humour and over-the-top revelry makes it's feel like a blend of A Clockwork Orange and History Boys or Frasier even. We're disgusted by their behaviour, yet compelled to see them face the consequences of a distant yet inevitable justice for their societal and criminal transgressions.

Scherfig takes us close to the flame on many occassions, yet pulls away at the last second. While this is often a relief, you can't help but wonder how much more tension and cult notoriety they could have achieved if they'd followed through.

As such, The Riot Club deflates in the third act by taking the easy way out, moving from frightening and harrowing to simply being a tap on the wrist. It still thrashs around like a fish on dry land, but the anti-climax spoils the foundations and subverts the fiercely dark tone for a subdued ending. Perhaps they were aiming for a poignant and anger-inducing resolution, but this wasn't clear enough.

The bottom line: Untamed


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