DVD review: ‘The Riot Club’ is an upper class horror movie

The Riot Club is out on DVD now via. Madman Films. Available at JB HiFi and other home entertainment retailers. 

Lone Scherfig dabbled in class system commentary in her 2009 US break through An Education, one of the undoubtedly most interesting but least talked about elements of that film. But while the commentary in that film was grounded in subtleties, contrasting the war-time, timber furniture-heavy Mellor household with the airy, bright, plush furniture-filled apartment belonging to Helen (Rosamund Pike) and Danny (Dominic Cooper), The Riot Club takes the British upper class (and as a result, those that lead the country) to task in a much more direct way. That’s not a bad thing, except it’s also done in the most obvious way possible. The first half-hour is a nonsensical scene-after-scene of trust fund, untouchable Oxford boys (played by pretty much every British teen star of the moment, including Sam Claflin and Douglas Booth) partying with little explanation, something that quickly gets boring and inexplicably repetitive because of its complete lack of construction or cohesion. It ultimately gets to the more interesting stuff when reaching the actual event of the film, a debauched university club induction dinner at a pub that quickly goes awry. The characters are in their element, and while the script never lives up to its potential, it improves enough to make the rest of the film better than the first segment. Laura Wade adapted the screenplay from her play Posh, and the theatrical roots show through in the final hour, which occurs pretty much in real time within the story. Here, the characters are put in a cage of a room and, as a result of their nature, have no other instinct but to fight. Scherfig shoots the ensuing madness like a horror movie, the blue-toned medium shots heightening the already lingering sense of predictability and the irreversibly horrible characters. Ultimately, it’s only a hinting at what the film could have been, a much more successful dissection of upper class society, and at just over 100 minutes, it drags substantially. While the horrible characters eventually get dealt what was coming for them, the end result feels as forgettable as a hazily remembered night out.

Rating: 2.5/5

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