★★★★ The Riot Club | The atrocious unsocial behaviour of a group of very wealthy privileged college-age offspring of England’s landed gentry whose utter contempt for the poor is matched by their assumed rights of trashing and vandalising other people’s properties, seems a odd topic for a movie.
It’s even more unbelievable when we learn that the current crop of top ranking Conservative politicians (including the Prime Minister) who are desperately clinging to their fragile grasp on power by claiming to be ‘of the common man’ were actually members of the outrageous private Club that this movie was based upon.
The fictional Riot Club was so named after its 17th Century founder, the lecherous young Lord Riot, who was stabbed to death for helping himself to another Oxford student’s possession viz his wife. To honor his memory his peers decided to completely devote their undergraduate years to debauchery and excess in every sense as they hardly had to bother to study as they would be handed positions running the country on a plate the moment they left University.
The current contemporary crop of members are 2 short of the basic quorum of 10, so they trawl their nets looking for likely candidates. This bunch of utter snobs rigorously grill the two candidates that they think will fit and although both match the demands of this picky lot, they are totally different in character. Max is a good egg with the right family pedigree and is actually dating a working class girl, Alistair is a arrogant bad seed and as such is going to fit in perfectly with the Club’s complete lack of morals.
Their disgusting initiation process leads up to the Club’s grand banquet but as they have been banned from so many city restaurants and hotels after trashing them ruthlessly, they are having to resort to holding it in the private dining room of a rural pub way out in the country. The Landlord is anxious to ingratiate himself with what he thought were a group of young entrepreneurs who were only too happy to over-pay him to dine there. The highlight of the supper was meant to be a 10-bird roast and a prostitute to service all of them. When neither of these turn out as expected these nasty spolit brats now completely drunk step up their raucous behavior a notch or two before they start destroying everything in the room. When the horrified Landlord comes into complain, he becomes the target of their sheer blood-mindless behaviour and they end up beating him into a pulp.
Based on Laura Wade’s smash hit play ‘Posh’ which wowed the crowds in London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2010 and still didn’t harm the Conservatives in the election that year. The movie version is directed by Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig who has become something of a dab hand at what are such quintessentially English stories (her ‘An Eduction’ garnered 3 Oscar nominations), and she has made this somewhat ghastly story of violence somehow very compelling viewing. It helped that she peppered the cast with the latest generation of ‘bright young things’ who not only are remarkably talented actors, but they are all damn good lookers too. They include Sam Clafin (‘The Hunger Games’), Douglas Booth (‘Christopher and His Kind’), Jeremy Iron’s son Max (‘TV’s The White Queen’), Australian Sam Reid (‘Belle’), Ben Schnetzer (also in ‘Pride’ right now), Freddie Fox (also in ‘Pride’), Natalie Dormer (‘Rush’) and Holliday Grainger (‘Jane Eyre’).
It seems odd to concede that we are such a class ridden society and that although we are indignant that one small section of society still believe that their so-called superiority is a birth-given right to ride roughshod over the rest of us, we are nonetheless not suprised by any of their behavior. Whilst it may not shock us Brits that when push comes to shove this handful of aristocrats behave in a simlar manner to that as football hooligans at the other end of the social scale, it will horrify most of America who want to believe that they are in fact all as well-bred and overly polite like the folks in Downton Abbey.
It’s bloody and violent and morally abhorrent, yet immensley watchable.