Bad Genius (2017) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): A smart, exhilarating heist film from Thailand

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Thailand film “Bad Genius” surprised me a lot. Bringing some fresh air into its genre conventions via its seemingly mundane story material, this smart, exhilarating heist film is constantly electrifying as serving us a number of memorable moments to amuse and thrill us. It instantly grabbed my attention right from the beginning, it relentlessly dazzled me with its first-rate storytelling, and it totally satisfied me to the end.

The story begins with its adolescent heroine Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying) during her interview with the headmistress of some prestigious high school in Bangkok. As a model student who is also a math prodigy, Lynn is surely someone who will be welcomed into this high school, and she certainly takes a full advantage of that. Instantly calculating how much her father has to pay every semester, she makes a good point on why she may not come to the school, and the headmistress eventually agrees to provide the full scholarship for her.

Not long after she begins her first year in the school, Lynn happens to befriend a classmate named Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan), and their friendship leads to what is probably the first serious transgression in Lynn’s life. When she comes to realize that their latest math examination is not as fair as it seems, Lynn decides to do an exam-cheating for her friend, and she has quite a brilliant idea for how to give all the answers to her friend during the examination. Thanks to precise editing and palpable sound effects, this scene is pretty intense to say the least, and we come to brace ourselves as watching how cleverly Lynn gets away with her transgression as the clock is literally ticking on the screen.

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After this exam-cheating, Lynn soon finds herself helping not only Grace but also other students. Grace’s boyfriend Pat (Teeradon Supapunpinyo), who is your average spoiled rich kid, offers Lyn a considerable amount of money for more exam-cheating, and he also connects her to his several classmates, each of whom is willing to pay Lynn enough for her service. As the number of her ‘clients’ is growing, Lynn comes to devise another clever scheme based on something very simple, and how she and others execute that during their examinations is another superb moment to savor.

Now I have to be more careful about describing the plot for not spoiling your fun. All I can tell you is that the screenplay by director Vasudhorn Piyaromna and his co-writers Nattawut Poonpiriya and Tanida Hantaweewatana keeps raising what is being at stake for Lynn and her accomplices. At one point, Grace and Pat find themselves facing the consequence of their exam-cheating, but they decide to go further, so they request that Lynn should help them again. Lynn is reluctant, but she cannot resist the possibility of getting a lot more money than before.

For the success of her new scheme, Lynn needs another accomplice who is as smart as her, and that is Bank (Chanon Santinatornkul), a poor kid whose dream of going to a university in Singapore is dashed due to a recent unfortunate incident. Bank is not so eager to participate in the scheme at first, but he eventually agrees to join the group, and we see him and others preparing for their scheme step by step.

As approaching to the expected climactic part, the movie seems to be on a predictable course, but then it keeps surprising us while diligently dialing up its level of tension. During the climactic part, there are several moments which will make your body tightened for their sheer suspense, and everything eventually culminates to a superlative sequence to admire for its effortless tautness.

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I also like how deftly the final scene of the movie is handled. On the surface, it is merely the conversation between Lynn and the other main character, but it is clear to us that Lynn has to make an important choice for her future, and watching her hesitating between two options is as suspenseful as many other key scenes in the film.

The main cast members of the film are uniformly good in their unadorned natural performance. Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, who makes a debut here as a movie actress, is excellent in her lead role, and she and her co-performer Chanon Santinatornkul have a good chemistry between them. In case of Eisaya Hosuwan and Teeradon Supapunpinyo, they function well as comic relief whenever that is necessary, and the movie often makes a sharp point on the social gap between their characters and Lynn.

Although this is only the second feature film in his career, Piyaromna did an impressive job on the whole, and his technical crew members surely deserve to be commended. While the cinematography by Phaklao Jiraungkoonkun is slick and fluid, the editing by Chonlasit Upanigki is flawless in its brisk pacing, and this is further fueled by the music by Hualampong Riddim, which is effectively mixed with several familiar pieces of classic music on the soundtrack.

Overall, “Bad Genius” is one of the most notable surprises of this year, and I was entertained a lot by the top-notch execution of its smart story idea. If you appreciate good thriller movies driven by story and character, you should not miss this hidden gem, and I guarantee that you will not regret at all once you watch it.

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