Review – Bad Genius (2017) Fantasia International Film Festival!

by Vincent Leblanc

On Day 4 of the Fantasia Festival, I had one screening in the afternoon. This film tempted me very much after reading about it and watching the trailer. And it seems I was not the only one to be interested because it was the first of two sold out screenings (ed.: they’ve now added a third screening). A guy even offered me $40 for my ticket that I paid $9 for while I was waiting in the line to enter the theater! This was the Canadian Premiere of the Thai film Bad Genius (Chalard Games Goeng or Chalat Kem Kong, the latter of which is, apparently, the transliteration of it’s original title ฉลาดเกมส์โกง in Thai script).

The film was directed by Nattawut Poonpiriya. Labeled as being inspired by multiple real-life exam cheating scandals, the script was co-written by the director, Tanida Hantaweewatana and Vasudhorn Piyaromna. It stars Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Eisaya Hosuwan, Chanon Santinatornkul and Teeradon Supapunpinyo. Yes, I admit that I didn’t try to memorize the orthography of these names, I copy and pasted everything.   

Bad Genius had its International Premiere at the New York Asian Film Festival on June 30th where it was the opening film. This just in: the film has won the Best Feature award in the Main Competition at the NYAFF. It also came in third place of the Audience Award. Actress Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying received the NYAFF 2017 ‘Screen International Rising Star Asia Award’ for her role in the movie before the opening screening.

At the Fantasia Festival, Bad Genius is in competition for the “Cheval Noir” award, the festival’s top prize awarded by a jury. I invite you to read the following synopsis of the film that comes from the Fantasia Festival official website:

” For most young people wrapping up their high-school years, final exams are a nightmare of stress and anxiety. Not to brilliant young Lynn, whose knack for complex mathematics is immediately evident to anyone. Lynn can certainly do the math, and frankly, it doesn’t look great for her family’s finances – which leads her to bend the rules, just a bit, and help out a friend struggling with her grades. This leads to her pool of “clients” expanding, and her tricky techniques becoming ever more complex. But the big score she lines up might be a miscalculation. Lyn will have to rely on subtle deceit, precision timing, travel to another time zone – and the help of equally brilliant Bank, who utterly despises cheaters.”

Can you guys see the big smile on my face? No? That’s too bad because I’m not a smiling kind of guy, especially not with all my teeth. But this movie caused me to break character. Damn, that was great! I loved the story that incorporated great moments of drama, comedy, and tension. There are all sorts of cool ideas and scenes in this movie. The cheats these kids come up with are super cool and fun. Don’t get me wrong, cheating is bad. I swear you’ll find yourself rooting for the cheaters and hating those who rat them out.

The film looks amazing and is incredibly well edited. If you anticipate that watching students answer exams with multiple-choice questions will be boring, think again. This was some edge-of-your-seat excitement and the pacing is also spot-on. This is a 130 minute film and there is not a single boring moment in it.

The actors all did an amazing job. Main actress Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying really deserved her award. Usually a model, she’s absolutely great in her feature film debut, making her character Lynn go through various emotions. I was also a big fan of Eisaya Hosuwan (who plays Grace) and her bubbly personality.

Bad Genius is already a box-office hit on its home turf. Your next opportunity to see the film seems to be upcoming screenings at the New Zealand International Film Festival on July 30th and August 11th (the first date is already sold out). A distributor will most likely acquire the film for North America soon, at least I sincerely hope. I’m looking forward to adding this movie to my collection.   

Bad Genius is simply my favorite film of the festival, yet. It’s dramatic, funny, and thrilling. It was a really entertaining experience and I highly recommend that you go see it in a theater near you.

I’m giving Bad Genius a 4 out of 5 Hairpieces!

Also, check out this interesting Q&A from the NYAFF.

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