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The Riot Club - Film Review

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by Rebekkah Craw (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer, storyteller and poet living and writing in Manchester.
Published October 2nd 2014
The dark world of the winsome posh

In a world where we can easily find class warfare on the front page and on the high street, one has to ask, when confronted with a trailer featuring a character shouting, 'I am sick to death of poor people' whether it is truly necessary to go seeking it in the cinema. This is the question I asked myself before booking my ticket for 'The Riot Club', a film adapted for the screen by Laura Wade, based on her stage play, 'Posh'.

It is not, by any stretch, an escapist - or purely entertaining - film. The film is unapologetically didactic, ripe as a subject for a paper on symbolism in an undergraduate English Composition course. The majority of the main characters - the ten boys that comprise the Riot Club - are nigh on indistinguishable from each other, which, it's made clear later in the film, is no accident, as most in that old boys' club are shaped in the same mould.

The Riot Club

The Riot Club', on the surface, is about the exclusive Oxford club and the privilege and power it is assumed to present anyone fortunate enough to be granted access. The members are giddy with its prestige, caustic and abusive to anyone less fortunate. Fresher initiate Miles Richards (Max Irons) is at first honoured to be invited, but over the course of the annual dinner - where the veterans lustily let loose their greed for food, drink, drugs and sex - begins to find his stomach turned by their spoilt demands. The night takes an ugly turn, giving the audience a glimpse into how the other kind deal with the consequences of their actions, redemption be damned.

There is no doubt this is a film about, as mentioned above, class warfare. Though the subject of the film is the rich and the power they carry, the artillery is being fired from the side of the angry lower classes, attacking everything remotely related to wealth and taking no prisoners. The story presents a very shallow, narrow view of the upper crust and their distaste for the bourgeoisie. While there may well be a grain (arguably more of a nugget) of truth to the idea at the heart of the film (says this lefty-liberal writing from the working class), the story is written at such an angle that this grain eclipses just about any nuance or complexity, with the character of Miles Richards serving as the token exception, and in a most milquetoast way. The average folks in the film are turned into hapless victims to be trodden under the fervourous foot of the Riot Club, with no victory in sight.

As a socially-conscious member of the public, no, I don't think this is the constructive take on class it presents itself to be; I find it more harmful and divisive than enlightening. As a moviegoer, on the other hand, there is undoubtedly entertainment value in this film: the performances are all-around brilliant, the script offers up some genuine emotion and even some heartfelt laughs, and the cinematography is, at times, astounding in its presentation of the conflict. It is certainly a film worth seeing, even if it is not quite worth believing.
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Why? Intense and provocative
When: Out now
Where: In cinemas
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