Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening.
‘The Riot Club’ is based on Laura Wade’s play “Posh”, which in turn is based on the notorious ‘Bullingdon Club’ whose members have included none other than the easily detestable David Cameron, the ever shapeshifting George Osborne, and the lovable idiot Boris Johnson. What unfolds in the film is a freshers week the likes of which you were glad you were not a part of. Downing drinks filled with spit, having your room vandalised, and being crowned a ‘total f*cking legend’ for pouring port over your head like some hilarious daft sod. To watch on in the film was similar to how I watched on at university; confused, but entertained. I was quite happy taking full advantage of the £1 drinks and being glad I was actually able to wake up the following day.
Having grown up around Oxford there was something all the more real about watching a bunch of toffy rich kids take advantage of their positions in society. It is incredible how self-entitled people become given that they had absolutely no say in where they were born. I had no direct interaction with individuals like this, but you would see them occasionally when you went into the city centre, and overhear their nonsense on the table next to you, gulping back a delicious ale in The Turf Tavern.
From interviews I have read, although the characters are somewhat fictitious, the cast were quite shocked to learn that this group exists and the attitudes, initiations and behaviours are all real in isolated instances. This contributes to one of the main strengths of the film, in that whether you have been to university or live near Oxford, it is largely irrelevant. It is scarily believable, and it is what makes the large portion of the film set in the quaint country pub all the more unnerving.
The young cast does well to convey this blatant stereotypical view of the upper class, although it lacked in subtlety, it was the over the top caricatures of these individuals that I bought into the most. These are not your ordinary students – a self entitled club who believe they are the 1%. It makes sense to accentuate their ridiculousness and blow it wildly out of proportion, because to add any aspect of normality to them would have made them more like ‘us’. As a result, what starts out as a ‘coming of age’ comedic tale of ‘banter’ and ‘tomfoolery’, results in one of the most drawn out and uncomfortable viewing experiences I have had in a while.
The actions that take place turn this into a sharp thriller of a film, an intriguing portrayal of entitlement, privilege, and how the consequences of our actions impact people differently, depending on who you know. Cleverly filmed, a good script and an original premise – It lacks any real answers, but it is excellent entertainment.