Bad Genius (Chalard Games Goeng) (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

A straight A+ student, Lynn sells the right to cheat of off her for money which her family desperately needs so she can maintain going to private school where she has a better chance at a better education. As the stakes go up, she gets involved in a plan to cheat on an international university entry classification test. From there on, things become stressful and nerve-wracking for her group of friends and herself.

Written by Tanida Hantaweewatana, Vasudhorn Piyaromna, and Nattawut Poonpiriya, with Nattawut Poonpiriya directing, Bad Genius is a high school drama mixed with an almost heist type thriller with the thing being stolen is a good position on the international higher education classification, something highly needed for students to go abroad after their high school graduation. The film is built and edited like a heist film almost with the stakes becoming bigger and bigger and the tension builds nicely throughout the second half. This fact that the subject is cheating on a test should not keep anyone away as it is delivered in a manner that makes it almost thrilling.

The cast for the students is strong with Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying leading in the part of Lynn, the genius who has the capacity to help all her friends but opts to do so in an illegal way. Playing kind of the masterminds of the whole thing are Eisaya Hosuwan as Grace and Teeradon Supapunpinyo as Pat, with help from a reluctant Bank played by Chanon Santinatornkul. All three of them give good performances, helping make the film more of an ensemble effort, kind of like an Ocean’s Eleven, or High School’s Four, of test cheating.

The film is shot in a manner that adds to the tension while keeping the human and drama elements in the forefront. The cinematography by Phaklao Jiraungkoonkun paired with the editing by Chonlasit Upanigkit creates images and a pace that support the tension and even help add to it, especially in the second half when it is gradually cranked up until the end of the film. The way they do this works great and keeps the attention throughout the film while also letting the characters tell their stories and show the viewer how the whole process is affecting them. The film has images that taken one by one may seem simple or mundane, but once all put together, work as a thriller with good tension.

Helping all the work by the cinematography, editing, acting, directing, and writing is the music which here is used in a way that enhances what is on the screen. This music by Vichaya Vatanasapt is on point and quite fantastic as it moves along with the story and works hand in hand with the film as a whole.

Bad Genius works on many fronts, including that of a thriller with its mounting stress and tension throughout and its stakes being very high for the leads whose need this cheating on the test for different reasons each. Bad Genius is a strong film with tension that builds just right and performances delivering throughout. It’s entertaining and reminiscent of what makes heist films, the good ones, so much fun to watch. Bad Genius makes taking SAT-like tests almost exciting or exhilarating, something that should not make sense but here it does.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.