VIFF Film Review: The Riot Club

The Riot Club is a deliciously dark tale of the upper-class brats at Oxford’s famed “Riot Club.” The film follows them at their annual club dinner as they descend into debauchery and ultra-violence.


Based on Laura Wade’s play Posh, the film retains her original bite in its portrait of the unbridled privilege of Riot Club members, who belong to Britain’s illustrious families. The film follows the new recruits: bad seed Alistair (Sam Caflin) and our sympathetic hero Miles (Max Irons), who clash over misplaced rooms and then as history partners debating the merits of the welfare state. They are soon recruited to the Riot Club, who initiate them with tests like guessing the wine year from a cocktail of phlegm, spit, boogies, maggots, and extinguished cigarettes, and taking drunken history tests.

Casting well-known heartthrobs like Douglas Booth as the flirty fencing pro Harry, Hunger Games’ hottie Caflin as the sociopathic Alistair, and rising star Ben Schnetzer as the token Greek member Dmitri, is perfect in muddying the audience’s alliances and conflicting our sympathies. Director Lone Scherfig keeps the underlying tension and claustrophobia of the play throughout the film, as the group gets more drunk and starts ripping up the countryside pub and terrorizing its owner and his daughter (Jessica Brown-Findlay). There are dark, comic monologues, including one by Alistair who launches into a tirade against the working class, bemoaning their envy of the privileged and their bad choices in life. The entire cast is sterling, clearly relishing in playing these depraved roles, especially Irons who captures the tainted innocence, but the real star is Caflin, who is a sheer force of malevolence as the wounded and power-mad Alistair.

The Riot Club is a must-see film that allows the audience to scorn at the unsavoury characters and their unchecked privilege.