Life’s a riot for the boys with the inside track

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

THE RIOT CLUB Di­rected by Lone Scher­fig Star­ring Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Dou­glas Booth, Hol­l­i­day Grainger, Sam Reid, Fred­die Fox, Ben Sch­net­zer, Tom Hollander “You love me,” sneers Sam Claflin’s hate­ful Hooray Henry into the face of a coun­try pub land­lord. Claflin’s Alis­tair is ar­guably the worst of a very bad lot: he loathes the NHS, pours scorn on as­pi­ra­tion and gets his peers riled up with a Masters of the Uni­verse speech. And yet he’s quite cor­rect.

Dan­ish di­rec­tor Lone Scher­fig ( An Ed­u­ca­tion) has al­ready demon­strated a keen out­sider’s un­der­stand­ing of Bri­tish so­ci­ety. Work­ing from Laura Wade’s hit 2010 play Posh, the film-maker clev­erly con­veys the kind of Stock­holm Syn­drome that en­sures the con­tin­u­a­tion of the class struc­ture. The Riot Club is ex­clu­sively pop­u­lated by the rul­ing elite, young men who can buy their way out of any scrape, and will some day march through the cor­ri­dors of power, re­gard­less.

As with the orig­i­nal play, the new film is in­spired by David Cameron, Boris John­son and George Os­borne’s Bulling­don Club. It fea­tures a group of ob­nox­ious young Ox­o­ni­ans on a typ­i­cal toffs night out, an evening of de­bauch­ery and a 10-bird roast.

A pro­logue in­tro­duces Lord Riot, a 17th-cen­tury he­do­nist whose taste for saucy wenches gets him killed. As with the din­ing club named in his hon­our, there’s an un­de­ni­able ap­peal to his bad-boy an­tics, a per­verse charm that’s writ­ten into ev­ery ir­re­spon­si­ble act per­pe­trated by his con­tem­po­rary suc­ces­sors.

Among th­ese, Miles (Max Irons) looks like a good egg: he may have “hon­ourable” at­tached to his name, but he also has a “boot-strappy” girl­friend (Grainger) and a mod­icum of good man­ners.

But will Miles have the de­cency to stick up to his peers when all hell breaks loose? His haz­ing ses­sion sug­gests oth­er­wise. The Riot Club can’t al­ways tran­scend its the­atri­cal ori­gins, but there’s a nasty sting lurk­ing un­der all those high spir­its and all th­ese pretty peo­ple ( The Host’s Irons, Hunger Games’s Claflin, Romeo and Juliet’s Booth).

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