On the Silver Screen – The Riot Club

Sep 21, 2014 | Posted by in Movies

Lone Scherfig directs the film adaptation of Laura Wade’s play Posh. Wade also pens the screenplay for this adaption titled The Riot Club focusing on two new members of the Oxford university exclusive society The Riot Club – a club where only the self appointed 10 best students in the university may be members.

It’s something of a risk having a film that focuses on a group of deplorable human beings doing equally disgraceful things. The 8 members of the exclusive society at the beginning of the film all come from families of means and act as spoiled as some people might imagine. They admit Alistair Ryle (Sam Claflin) and Miles Richards (Max Irons) to the club out of desperation since their group dips below 10; these new members come from less wealthy families so it is deemed a risk but they’re allowed in anyway.

The Riot ClubFrom here we are given scene after scene where this group flaunt their wealth and act like the most entitled set of douchebags possible. Each of them are painted as horrible human beings with no consideration for anyone but themselves -as well as perhaps the other members of the group- and complete disgust for anyone with a smaller bank balance than they do. There are several discussions on the subject of the poor being less deserving because they are lesser people. It’s all fairly disgusting if you come from the background that they are actively insulting but I feel like that is the point of the film, we’re not meant to like these people and the whole thing is to make a point about the divide between the rich and poor in our society.

That’s not to say there are no likeable characters in this film. In general the character of Miles isn’t as bad as the rest but he’s still involved in some awful things and only feels guilty when he is adversely affected by them. Since we’re basically seeing the society through his eyes it’s an interesting angle to see his horror at what goes on but he never has that moment of true redemption where he makes amends for what they’ve done. His girlfriend Lauren (Holliday Grainger) is from lesser means than the other characters and is portrayed very sympathetically throughout and has a scene where she shows great integrity in the face of what might seem like a tempting offer to some.

Generally the film shows the divide between rich and poor very well with the poorer people -by comparison- showing remarkable strength of character in stark contrast to the moral bankruptcy of the group. Gordon Brown as pub owner Chris exemplifies this in his horrified reaction to the carnage these boys have wrought on his business that he spent years building and running. It really is a heartbreaking scene as he surveys what they’ve done to his livelihood with absolutely no remorse from any of them. Ultimately money thrown at a problem solves a problem for these people and according to this film, that is fundamentally wrong. I find it difficult to disagree given that people like these characters actually exist, although perhaps to a less exaggerated extent.

Much of the film honours the stage roots of the story and takes place in the location of the aforementioned pub which has our characters all but confined to a single room where they celebrate their debauchery and have some fairly controversial discussions. This works very well and builds up the tension of the situation where something really bad is bound to happen given the levels of alcohol consumed as well as the group voicing their displeasure at the slightest of inconveniences. Never does the location feel boring or overused as the space is used so well.

Given that the lack of likeability of most of the characters seems to be the point I can’t really fault the film for accomplishing this as it does what it sets out to do beautifully. It becomes a bit of a problem when the characters are almost indistinguishable from one another which makes scenes with them on their own a question as to which member we’re dealing with at that moment. At times the message of “rich people are bad” is a bit overdone with a few too many scenes of rich person debauchery when the point has been well and truly made.

  • 7/10
    The Riot Club - 7/10


A thought provoking and engaging film that runs with the risk of having the majority of the characters being unlikeable and does well with it. The rich/poor divide is at the heart of the film and it is effectively presented through the many scenes of debauchery. Other aspects of society are shown in the film to contrast with the decadence and entitlement giving the audience a nice comparison to show who the better people in society really are, despite what the main characters believe. Most of the rich characters are thinly written and therefore indistinguishable from one another and some of the scenes of entitled debauchery run on for too long but in general it’s an effective commentary on the class divide in the UK.