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Review: The Riot Club (TIFF 2014)

The Riot Club (TIFF 2014)
09.15.2014
8 10

PLOT: Sam Claflin & Max Irons) are invited to join an infamous secret society called “The Riot Club” which is dedicated to elitism and hell-raising.

REVIEW: After the hiccup that was ONE DAY, director Lone Scherfig is back with a strong return to form that proved to be one of the hidden gems to emerge from this year's crop at TIFF. THE RIOT CLUB is an appropriate follow-up to AN EDUCATION, with this being about an education as well, albeit in all the wrong things. Think of this as THE WOLF OF WALL STREET at Oxford and you've got a good idea of the kind of fellows you're going to be seeing here.

Inspired by the real-life “Bullingdon Club” which has been official banned by Oxford for decades, but still reportedly exists (with former members including UK Prime Minister David Cameron), THE RIOT CLUB features the most despicable bunch of blue-bloods you've ever seen. Max Irons plays the closest thing we get to a “good guy” as a privileged newcomer to Oxford, who nonetheless understands this the class system is done for, and is sympathetic to those less wealthy than him, including his working class girlfriend (Holiday Granger).

The yin to his yang is Sam Claflin's near-fascist, who's so disgusted by the way the balance of power has shifted that he constantly seems on the cusp of violence. Once these two are brought into “The Riot Club”, whose main purpose here seems to be carousing, bad things are bound to happen. Everything comes to a head at the club's annual dinner, which is to be an orgy of food and drink, after which, according to tradition, they'll wreck the bar and pay off its owner. In this case, the owner is a working-class fellow who's somewhat incorruptible, with a clever daughter (DOWNTON ABBEY's Jessica Brown Findlay) with very little patience for the entitled brats. Obviously chaos will ensue, but once the boys start breaking out the cocaine, you'll be surprised at how dark this formerly funny film gets.

While you'll no doubt be eager for everyone here to get his comeuppance, even Irons' nominal protagonist, THE RIOT CLUB is always a thrilling watch. Scherfig is daring in how deeply she goes into the ingrained misogyny of the club, including a great scene where Natalie Dormer's prostitute puts them in his place, or a shocking moment involving Granger's character who makes an unscheduled appearance at the dinner. Don't worry if you hate the guys, you're supposed to.

In the end, THE RIOT CLUB wound up being one of the TIFF films that stayed with me the most after seeing it, and presuming it gets a solid North American release, it's one that shouldn't be missed. Clearly, this will be far more controversial in the UK (where it's due out September 19th) – with the Tom Hollander character as a former “Rioter” having uncomfortable similarities to former Bullingdon members in UK politics – but if you like stories about occasionally terrible people this is for you. It's a smart, ultra-contemporary look at a class divide that still exists (or so it seems) in the UK, and is truly food for though. It's not to be missed.

Source: JoBlo.com

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