Trailer Face-Off: 22 Jump Street vs. The Riot Club

Published May 21, 2014

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week:  22 Jump Street vs. The Riot Club, two films exploring the debauched activities of contemporary university students. 

Premise22 Jump Street is a the second film in a franchise based on a 1980s Tiger Beat drama that starred Johnny Depp. Jump Street, the undercover police precinct composed of vaguely youthful-looking officers, has moved down the road from 21 to 22 Jump Street. Following their success posing as high school students to bust a juvenile drug ring, partners Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are given a similar new assignment: to find the drug lords behind another new dangerous substance (whyfy) that is particularly prominent on university campuses.  Along the way, shenanigans ensue: Schmidt pretends to be a Hispanic gangster and gets attacked by an octopus, Jenko dresses up in a football uniform, guns are fired, young girls are seduced, and Jenko and Schmidt’s police captain (Ice Cube) is angered.

Where 22 Jump Street has kegs and frat parties, The Riot Club has champagne and secret societies (if we could compare The Riot Club to The Skulls, we would, but alas, a 14-year time difference stands in our way). A group of privileged students (i.e. old-money rich, white, and male) at “the world’s oldest univerity” (it’s definitely Oxford) are enlisted to join a centuries-old members club. Shenanigans ensue. Boys will be debauched, sexist boys. Then one of them decides to poop the party by punching a poor person in the face just a little too hard. There’s lots of blood, possibly an ambulance, possibly a death. The group starts to split; a scapegoat is singled out. Shit gets real.

Neither of these premises are novel: one is purely silly, the other one could be a guilty pleasure or an important examination of the modern-day prevalence of an archaic class system. We’ll take the silly.Advantage: 22 Jump Street

The BoysWe’ll readily admit, this is not a fair category. 22 Jump Street has some good names: we like Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, they seem to genuinely like each other, we are convinced they are having a fun time and feel included in their inner circle, and their contrast in height and appearance makes for good physical comedy. We like Ice Cube and Dave Franco as well. Cube is a legend; Franco seems like a nice boy with a knack for playing adolescent wankers. Any one of the four aforementioned actors has more star power than the cast of The Riot Club does combined. Or they do for now. Boyish, charming, ever-so-pretty, and English (well, mostly), it’s no secret that Douglas Booth, Max Irons, Sam Claflin, and Sam Reid are headed for the big leagues. Max Irons’ dad is the great Jeremy Irons (aka Scar, Charles Ryder, Pope Borgia), Sam I is in The Hunger Games, and Sam II is having a great year with The Railway Man and Belle. As for Douglas Booth, you can look at his résumé—Noah, Jupiter Ascending, Burberry ads, Interview‘s 14 Faces of 2014—but the cheeky smile he gives the tour-guide in the trailer is all you really need to know. The magic of The Riot Club cast doesn’t end there; the male cast also includes some promising, slightly newer newcomers like Ben Schnetzer (The Book Thief), Matthew Beard (One Day), Freddie Fox (Pride, Frankenstein), and Olly Alexander (God Help the Girl).Advantage: The Riot Club

The GirlsIt is unlikely that either of these films will pass the Bechdel test, so we’re setting the bar even lower: which love interest, if any, looks like she has a personality of her own. We don’t see much of Amber Stevens in the 22 Jump Street trailer—only enough to know that Jonah Hill sleeps with her (-12) and her roommate, who seems sassy if a bit of a nutter butter, is the unfortunate witness (+2).  As for The Riot Club, there seem to be three women featured in the cast: Natalie Dormer, who plays a prostitute (-10); Jessica Brown-Findlay, who plays a perfectly capable, not-posh young university student helping out at her father’s restaurant (+5); and Holliday Grainger, the moral compass who isn’t afraid to speak her mind (+5).Advantage: The Riot Club

The BaddiesDrugs are bad, mmkay. Spoiled-rotten, filthy-rich kids are worse. “I’m sick to death of poor people!” one of the Riot Club members exclaims, though it’s unclear whether this is before or after he punches the poor person in the face. The boys of the Riot Club might not be the brightest crayons in the Crayola catalogue, but they know how to get away with things (throw money at it and make a lot of references to “people like us”). The Riot Club is based on Oxford’s Bullingdon Club, whose real life alumni include the current Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mayor of London. Freeway Rick Ross is in jail and his name has been co-opted by a “Falstaffian” former prison guard.Advantage: The Riot Club

The PartiesDrinking games, bonding, bass lines, and spring break forever OR a sausage-fest, three-course dinner interrupted by a prostitute and what looks like a sexual assault. Color us old-fashioned, but at least all the fun in 22 Jump Street looks consensual. Advantage: 22 Jump Street

The Verdict22 Jump Street will probably make us laugh and Sony a lot of money. The Riot Club will make careers.Winner: The Riot Club

Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here.