Film Review: Bad Genius
MANILA, Philippines — Movies about cheating in school are dime a dozen, especially when dealing with high school life.
They are often treated in comic ways just to show that young people can commit assorted shenanigans.
Part of growing up, they say.
But in the Thai film Bad Genius directed by Nattawut Poonpiriya, the school caper turns serious and becomes a pulse-pounding thriller of chilling proportion.
Straight A student Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying enters a school she doesn’t really like but poor father thinks her daughter’s exemplary good grades deserve a better learning environment.
The father (Thaneth Warakuklnukroh) is a gentle foil to the daughter’s scheme that has evolved into a big money-earning business enterprise. Her father believes in preserving dignity over big deposits in a bank. He is the father figure with boundless moral and financial support for her brilliant daughter.
Against the background of her daughter’s shenanigans, the father represents old world virtues in an age of millennial mindset.
But as the story goes, the genius of a daughter finds out she can earn oodles of money by helping schoolmates get a good grade by, well, cheating.
But this is no ordinary story of cheating.
The genius even uses believable piano lessons involving popular piano concertos as Morse Code for cheaters.
The pencils used for exams have intricate, fool-proof qualities.
Then she goes international as she plans an overseas cheating scheme for schoolmates aiming to pass entrance tests in international schools.
Here, the film captures its audiences with the sheer genius with which the plan is devised.
But as they say, bad things never really last. The authorities catch up with the planners and executioners, and they come to terms with their evil side.
The actor playing the genius is a good one and she proves to be worthy of the evil scheme of her character. She looks almost insensitive and heartless as she carries out her plan, but she also exudes human moral qualities dealing with her father.
But as she agrees to carry out a grand scheme in exchange of millions, she dazzles quietly as an actor. The actors playing her schoolmates and accomplices do just as well.
What the film tells its audience is that cheating is universal and that it happens even in the schools.
Brilliant daughter reminds her father that cheating started on the very date he donated a huge sum of money to the school to facilitate her admission.
As she sells her brilliant scheme to schoolmates, she reminds one of them to accept cheating for what it is. “The earlier you accept it, is good for you,” she tells a hesitant schoolmate. “Life will cheat on you anyway.”
Could this be the reason for assorted scams happening in the country?
In a big context, Bad Genius becomes a millennial parable of evil as it haunts the schools and finds endless equivalents in big business and government apparatus. It is a simple story with big lessons to impart on cheaters.
For this reason alone, this well-made Thai movie is worthy of everyone’s patronage.
It tells us genius is good, but it can go wayward and wreak havoc on gullible humanity.
It didn’t take long for the movie to find international audiences.
Bad Genius was the opening feature of the 16th New York Asian Film Festival and won Best Feature and Screen International Rising Star Asia award for lead star Chutimon.
It also won the Fukuoka Audience Award at the Focus on Asia Fukuoka International Film Festival 2017 and is now headed for Vancouver and London filmfests.
Bad Genius — also starring Eisaya Hosuwan, Teeradon Supapunpinyo, Chanon Santinatornkul, Thaneth Warakuklnukroh and Sarinrat Thomas — is now showing in cinemas. It is distributed locally by Silverline Multimedia.