Bad Genius Is An Off The Beaten Path Movie Suggestion
Occasionally I trip across movies that I don’t see coming. Bad Genius (or Chalard Games Goeng) is a Thai film made for a little under $2 million American, and yet it carries the weight and the intensity of many normal Hollywood contenders. Some are heralding it as an Ocean’s Eleven for SATs. I’ve even seen a couple different reviewers saying that it’s as if Aaron Sorkin wrote a caper flick set in a high school. And no, its no Aaron Sorkin. But it is clever, and its begging for an American remake. Which, will probably just ruin it. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Since there isn’t any deep dive happening in this write up, which I normally do, I figure I’ll give you the spoiler free overview of how the movie works and you can decide for yourself. Lynn, a wicked smart student, earns a scholarship into a very prestigious school. But struggling with fees, begins mentoring a friend. Realizing that its just easier to cheat, she starts setting up ever more complex ways to disseminate answers. And by the way? The international STIC community is cracking down on cheating and will spare nothing to catch her.
The cast of characters stays fairly small, with Lynn and Lynn’s father who plays a small but significant role. Grace plays the role of the ditzy acting student determined to get grades high enough to act in the next school play. And there’s Pat, Grace’s boyfriend who is the entitled rich kid every high school drama needs. And finally, there is Bank, the other super smart student of the school and a natural rival and competitor of Lynn’s. And voila, you have the making of pretty much every single Brat Pack 80’s movie ever made. Toss in some fairly well don caper mechanics and I really enjoyed this movie.
The larger point of Bad Genius was definitely calling out an Asian culture of entitlement and scholastic fast tracks in the system. I can only guess, but the verbal commentary on the testing and the schooling within the region is a tender nerve for the more middle class and poorer students. The movie dances like a Rocky sparring with the entitled few, serving them notice that the world knows the game that they are playing… and this game? This is a new one.
If I had any complaints, it’d be that a expected a little in the third act. It did run over 2 hours after all. I realized that the editing was just really loose and there wasn’t a final shoe to drop. But over all the acting was almost always pitch perfect, the directing was very well thought out and executed. If I were doing a spoiler walk through I’d talk a little bit about the ending and a few changes that I am certain Hollywood will make that will ruin the movie. But there were a couple changes worth making that would take it to the next level.
But all in all? This is Thailand’s single highest grossing film. And that is for a reason. It’s really well done. And all for a budget of Under $2million. Expect news from Variety any day know letting us know that the English Film rights have been purchased after a bidding war. But the problem is, most of the punch to this movie wont land in America. Our students don’t IV up with fluids and caffeine in order to score well on their college entrance exams, but Asians do. The intensity of what is on the line just won’t make too much sense. And yet, given some finagling with the ending even that issue can be resolved. I’m just worried Hollywood will take it in exactly the wrong direction.