Starring: Sam Claflin, Max Irons, Douglas Booth
Director: Lone Scherfig
Running Time: 107 mins
The Riot Club is a British film about the infamous secret society at Oxford University, and two budding young members who get caught up in its web of sin and decadence.
Now, this is a film that’s meant to be all about excess and decadence, and whilst it goes to that extent in some of the latter stages, it’s still all a bit watered-down. The first act is extremely slow-starting, and it takes far too long to get into the real nitty-gritty of how bad the Riot Club really is, although that balance is redressed in the closing stages.
So, this film is divided into two clear acts. We start off with the arrival of two young students at Oxford University, who are introduced very clearly as having a relative dislike for one another, which sets up their later rivalry very well. The whole of the first forty minutes of this film, however, isn’t too much about them getting into a big rivalry about becoming members of the prestigious club, more so about their own lives, which, on the one hand, is useful to allow you to get to know them better and support one over the other, however on the other hand, it’s a slow and seemingly irrelevant slog to get to the real meat of the story.
And even when we start to see the appearance of the Riot Club in itself, it’s still not that exciting or impacting, because it gives off an image more like a fraternity in a US college than a genuinely decadent organisation with mean-spirited intentions and dark philosophies, meaning that, in those initial stages when the two join the club, you don’t really get the impact that you would expect from being thrown into the club, summing up the idea that the first act of this film is pretty watered-down.
However, that completely changes around in the second act of this film, which, despite unfolding in effectively just one room for an hour or so, is absolutely thrilling. This is when you really get to see how bad the members of the club behave, whether it be simple rowdiness or deeply immoral acts that make you feel disgusted.
Over that period, there’s little in the way of real character development, that was all done in the first stage, however seeing the effects of the decadence of this club makes you all the more engrossed in the characters, and fear a lot more for their welfare than you ever would have done when it all seemed like a bit of harmless fun, a fear that is realised in horrifying form towards the very end.
Overall, this gets a 7.3, because despite its thrilling and hard-hitting second act, the first period of this film was extremely dull, slow, and doesn’t fit in with the correct atmosphere of excess and debauchery that this whole film warrants.