Bad Genius (ฉลาดเกมส์โกง)

A prodigy at cheating

T he thing about cheating is not that you’re gonna get caught. I mean you are, eventually, but that doesn’t teach the lesson it should. The biggest problem with cheating is sometimes you lose anyway. And when you cheat and you lose, you have nothing. I know this from school; I know this from T-ball; I know this from adult beer league ice hockey: If you cheat, you better freaking win. Otherwise, zilch. You ain’t got squat.

It started with a test. One lousy test. Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying – and remember that name, because it will be on the midterm) was well prepared for the geomalgebraculus exam. Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan) was not. Grace should have been prepared; the two were in the library going over the same problems together just last scene. And when I say the same problems, I mean the exact same problems. Yeah, that doesn’t look suspicious. No matter. During the exam, Grace gives the “help me” plead to Lynn. Lynn is one of those kids who never gets a wrong answer. What’s she supposed to do? Grace is a friend. This film could have ended at this moment, but instead Lynn finishes up fast, copies the multiple-choice answers onto an eraser and slyly pushes it to Grace. Bingo.

One of the problems here is that all Thai exams are SAT-format multiple-choice fill-in-the-circle. People of Thailand, I applaud your efficient grading methods, but is there no God of Partial Credit in your world? What deity do you invoke when you haven’t studied?

Now you can claim Lynn is an innocent, but I say somebody who is that good at cheating without ever trying it before has at least considered the idea. Uh oh, Grace has a big mouth. Enter big-pockets Pat (Teeradon Supapunpinyo) … say, Lynn, how would you like to cheat for me and my buds? We’ll pay you! Considering this private school is costing Lynn’s single parent a small fortune, Lynn shakes the devil’s hand and a snowball becomes an avalanche.

There are two HUGE exaggerations in Bad Genius – one is that Lynn’s academics are untouchable. I’ve known a fair amount of smart people in my lifetime, but never one who was so confident that he/she could volunteer as a human answer key (in Thai and English, no less). The other exaggeration is the sheer volume of kids who give in to cheating – after a while, it becomes literally every.single.member of the class besides the two geniuses (who, by coincidence, are the only two who cannot afford the service). None of the rest of you have any sense of pride or fear? I remember not studying for a quiz once in 7th grade. I tried to cheat, got caught, and told myself, “this never happens again,” much more out of fear than pride. I can only imagine the trouble one gets into for cheating in a country that cares about education.

Lynn never ceases to be a sympathetic figure. Don’t you want to be the kid so smart the others pay good money to share your answers? She also becomes a kingpin by default, a result of total ownership of the one sellable commodity. That’s an important piece of this film because Bad Genius turns into a thriller by Act III. The film sets up an awesome dynamic by which you both want the cheaters to get caught and get away with it at the same time. This is a clever screenplay and clever film; it’s very possible I’ve underrated this picture.

For Lynn, the scholastic is trivial
And finding her cohorts convivial
She accepts the audacious
With a path mendacious
Was her sense of morals __________ ?

A. Mandatory B. Pusillanimous C. Vestigial D. Unrequited

Not Rated, 130 Minutes
Director: Nattawut Poonpiriya
Writer: Tanida Hantaweewatana, Vasudhorn Piyaromna, Nattawut Poonpiriya
Genre: Catch me if you can
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Future rule abusers
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Truant officers

Answer: C

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