Starring: Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Eisaya Hosuwan, Teeradon Supapunpinyo
Director: Nattawut Poonpiriya
Running Time: 130 mins
Bad Genius is a Thai film about a genius high school student who earns money from her classmates by cheating on tests, sets about an even greater risk, by travelling to Sydney to cheat on the international STIC exam by sending the answers to her classmates who are four hours behind back in Bangkok.
This is such a good film. Not only is it a fantastically exciting thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, but it’s also just a really good exercise in properly entertaining storytelling. With slick and dynamic directing from Nattawut Poonpiriya, strong performances across the board from a young cast, and a genuinely unpredictable and often risky story, Bad Genius is an exhilarating watch, and one you mustn’t miss out on.
Let’s start off with the story, something that continued to surprise me regularly over the course of 130 minutes. Firstly, it’s a very well-paced and intelligently laid-out plot, managing to effectively bind together major character development with the advent of this underground ring of students cheating on exams, and that means it’s a thoroughly interesting watch right from the beginning, never getting bogged down at any point.
What’s more is that it’s full of some fantastic twists and turns that help keep the intensity at incredible levels throughout. Its first act does very well to establish the character’s reasons for cheating on the exams, but after the early conflict is dealt with, it briefly seems like there’s nowhere else for the movie to go.
However, from then on, it upgrades itself to a huge-scale thriller, almost playing out like a heist movie as the students try to pull off a daring coup by beating an international exam, leading to what can only be described as one of the most intensely exciting movie finales I’ve ever seen, to the point that I wasn’t only on the edge of my seat, but genuinely breaking out into a sweat.
Of course, it’s not just the screenplay that makes Bad Genius such a thrilling watch, because director Nattawut Poonpiriya does an amazing job here too. Above all, the film is beautifully shot from start to finish, with all the confidence and production quality of a big Hollywood movie, but it’s also the way in which Poonpiriya styles the movie as what is effectively a heist thriller that makes it so memorable.
Whilst its finale is undoubtedly the pièce de resistance, the film has the intensity of a heist thriller right from the very start, as Poonpiriya uses very dynamic directing to bring the sense of risk right home, with various combinations of slow-mo and fast cuts in some of the exam sequences, all of which give the film even more confidence as a real thriller.
However, don’t think that Bad Genius is just a wall-to-wall intense thriller, because it’s actually really funny too. Again, Poonpiriya plays a big part in this, managing to expertly weave some of the story’s lighter moments appropriately into the midst of something more thrilling, but it’s also the fact that the whole thing seems so serious and intense that plays into another level of humour.
For one, the mimicking of classic heist and crime movies like Heat, Trainspotting, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and more through its visuals, and yet the fact that it’s centring around high school students cheating on tests, is a lot of fun to watch throughout. Also, the film is fully self-aware when it comes to delivering good comedy, meaning that in the middle of an incredibly intense sequence, it still feels perfectly appropriate to have a short burst of comedy to keep the mood light and playful, something that really impressed me.
But as well as the comedy and the thrills, Bad Genius also manages to hit another mark, telling a slightly more dramatic and moral story along the way. While the main bulk of the film is undoubtedly its endlessly entertaining thrills, it’s the little moments where we see our characters realise what they’re getting themselves into, and begin to question whether it’s really morally acceptable to continue on their way. It’s by no means preachy, and feels perfectly at home in the film, but if there were ever a film to show kids to not cheat on their exams, this is the one, because it really manages to show the deeper effects and consequences of doing so beyond simply getting disqualified or slapped on the wrist.
Finally, the performances here are pretty fantastic too. In the lead role, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying does a great job as the eponymous ‘bad genius’, proving a hugely entertaining and likable lead for the thriller side of the story, while still managing to keep her performance in check to allow the film’s comedy and moral drama to have a good effect as well.
Meanwhile, a lot of her co-stars impress in some very energetic and memorable performances, with the leading quartet featuring a fantastically exciting dynamic that allows them to play off one another, and keep the tension and excitement of their characters’ relationships bubbling throughout the movie, yet another level that engrossed me deeper into the story here.
Overall, I absolutely loved Bad Genius. First and foremost, it’s a thriller of epic proportions, and it does an amazing job at keeping you fully on the edge of your seat over the course of a genuinely unpredictable 130 minutes. However, it proves more impressive yet with its brilliantly slick directing, excellent comedy, intriguing drama and strong performances, all of which come together to make a mighty entertaining movie, which is why I’m giving it an 8.7.