‘Bad Genius’ (‘Chalat Kem Kong’): Film Review

Nattawut Poonpiriya’s caper, about a ring of teenage examination scammers, opens a New York Asian Film Festival after scoring high during a Thai box bureau in May.

Four years after creation his entrance with a New York-set fear crack Countdown — in that 3 Thai teenagers get some-more than they wish for from a goateed drug play called Jesus — 36-year-old helmer Nattawut Poonpiriya manages to spin a allied grounds into a relentless, high-octane hop with nods to Hollywood heist flicks past and present.

Based on recent revelations about real-life scandals in a general college-admission Scholastic Assessment Tests (SAT), Bad Genius scores high outlines as a continuously interesting thriller that cedes small belligerent to a inexpensive comedy and tenderness of new Thai hits. Poonpiriya certified he watched The Conversation and All a Presidents’ Men for inspiration, and it shows as a film flourishes by a elementary account and frozen editing.

With exams now fundamentally an essential partial of complicated life, Bad Genius could simply ring opposite several demographics — and even validate as a softly worded amicable critique, with a allusions to a inequality and crime engulfing a immature Thai protagonists. And only like his characters, Poonpiriya has incited his examination scams into large business: The May 3 recover surfaced a Thai box bureau during a opening weekend and now stands as a highest-grossing homegrown pretension in Thailand this year, with takings of scarcely U.S.$3.3 million. The film opens a New York Asian Film Festival on Jun 30, and it wouldn’t be a warn if someone snaps adult reconstitute rights after that.

The suggested heroine (or anti-heroine) here is straight-A tyro Lynn (played by indication Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying in her initial shade role), who, as a film begins, has only enrolled in an chosen school. Hailing from a reduce middle-class credentials — her father (1980s cocktail singer-producer Thaneth Warakulnukroh) is a plain, recently divorced schoolteacher — a teen discovers, many to her chagrin, that rascal is autochthonous in her new surroundings. While a propagandize charges students “tea money,” teachers trickle examination papers to students in lapse for “tutoring fees.”

Watching her father scavenge income for her tuition, a good lady shortly turns bad as she develops a devise to acquire a discerning buck. Egged on by a pleasing though blunt Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan) and her abounding though equally unenlightened beloved Pat (Teeradon Supapunpinyo), Lynn devises a complement by that she can send answers to them — and anyone who’s peaceful to compensate — during tests. Beginning with a small-scale examination in a classroom, Lynn’s operation eventually balloons into a derring-do try with a bigger examination holding place in a propagandize hall, as she scrambles to kick a cheat-proof device in a examination papers.

Having somehow upheld a examination on that one — a goal Nattawut conveys really impressively around a mise-en-scene imitative that of a heist some-more than a high-school comedy — Lynn’s fortune-making craving grinds to a hindrance since of a censure lodged by her impoverished, equally gifted though many some-more tasteful rival, Bank (Chanon Santinatornkul). Soon enough, however, Lynn finds bigger fish to fry. Asked by Grace and Pat for her assistance in their efforts to measure decent formula during a STIC tests — a illusory homogeneous of a SAT — she comes adult with a some-more elaborate and essential venture, one that would need some-more logistics, a outing to Australia and, many problematically, Bank’s help.

Devoid of a fantastical gadgets that many a 21st century media-savvy nonconformist would conveniently chuck in, Bad Genius is as considerably low-tech as a artless title: here, a scammers work with consumer-grade smartphones, pencils and old-school copy presses, table-tapping fingers, strategically timed lavatory breaks and impassioned ways of impersonation sickness. Poonpiriya has managed to make all this work (glossing over a few problems in a plotting) with his energetic storytelling, interjection to Phaklao Jiraungkoonkun’s camerawork and Chonlasit Upanigikit’s cutting.

While permitting only adequate of a glance of a inner agonise of Lynn and Bank, a executive — here helped by enchanting turns from Chuengcharoensukying and Santinatornkul — refrains from expanding that tension into cliched melodrama. In an brazen move, he denies Bank a possibility during redemption, as a child emerges from his distress with his values definitely and dismayingly transformed. Perhaps to equivocate being indicted of advocating that crime pays, Poonpiriya has Lynn grieve on her misdeeds. But he keeps that note brief and abandoned of moralizing or high drama. Bad Genius ultimately is some-more about a escapade than a consequences, display that bad things continue to occur in this curved world.


Production companies: GDH 559, Jokwang Films

Cast: Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Eisaya Hosuwan, Teeradon Supapunpinyo, Chanon Santinatornkul
Director: Nattawut Poonpiriya
Screenwriters: Tanida Hantaweewatana, VasudhornPiyaromna, NattawutPoonpiriya, Timothy Teo
Producers: Jira Maligool, Vanridee Ponsittisak, Chenchonnee Soonthonsaratul, Weerachai Yaikwawong
Executive producers: Paiboon Damrongchaitham, Boosaba Daorueng, Jina Osothsilp
Director of photography: Phaklao Jiraungkoonkun
Production designer: Patchara Lertkai
Music: Vichaya Vatanasapt
Editor: Chonlasit Upanigikit

In Thai and English
130 minutes