'The Riot Club' fails to earn its riotous stripes

Lone Scherfig, director of the 2010 best-picture Oscar nominee "An Education," revisits the topic of academia with "The Riot Club," but the results prove less gratifying.

Adapted by Laura Wade from her West End play "Posh," the story concerns an elite all-male Oxford University secret society devoted to the pursuit of hedonism — or, as one club member puts it, "let's eat till we are sick at the full table of life."


Membership holds an initial allure for fresh recruits Miles (Max Irons) and Alistair (Sam Claflin of "The Hunger Games"), whose older brother was something of a Riot Club legend. But then an ugly manifesto reveals itself during an annual dinner at a rural pub, with explosive results.

Although the performances are uniformly on point and the dialogue is tartly British, the film ultimately fails to earn its riotous stripes.

Scherfig and Wade have much to say (at times rather forcefully) about class and privilege, but the prevailing debauchery feels curiously muted, as does that ill-fated backroom gathering that has been calibrated to pack an emotional wallop.

Whether recent news of shocking frat-boy behavior cast the antics here in an overtly theatrical light or not, "The Riot Boys" will unlikely make much of a scene.


"The Riot Club."

MPAA rating: R for language, disturbing and violent behavior, sexual content, nudity, drug use.

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.