Sep 9, 2017
Bad Genius - movie review
(4.5 stars out of 5)
Cast: Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Eisaya Hosuwan, Teeradon Supapunpinyo
Director: Nattawut Poonpiriya
Writers: Tanida Hantaweewatana, Vasudhorn Piyaromna
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Suspense
Awards: Austin Fantastic Fest 2017 - Best Picture
Fantasia Film Festival 2017 - Most Innovative Feature Film, Best Asian Feature, Sequences Award, Best Director and Best Film
Run Time: 2h 10min
Release Date: 18 October 2017
When an award-winning foreign movie hits the mainstream in the Philippines, it can only be one thing - this is the best movie currently shown in the country of origin and it's so good, it's making its round on the global stage. It must be worth seeing!
A brilliant student helps her classmates pass an entrance exam for money. This leads to a more daring and more articulated cheating plan for a more prestigious global exam.
The plot is fairly simple - students get caught while cheating. But the way the movie was developed, it could rival the riveting suspense of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Think about shading a multiple choice answer - a? b? c? or d? How boring is that for cinematography? But the clever editing made it look like a gripping spy thriller - the panning on the clock, perspiration running down her face, shading the answers, staccato musical backdrop, etc. It was pure genius to make it work.
Another innovative approach is the cheating plot. Every student probably had a cheating episode once or twice during their student days, right? We have seen many ways of cheating. But how this cheating was done, involving differences in time zones, international travel, customizing pencil bar codes, keyboard fingering codes, a fleet of motorcycle messengers and trans-Pacific information transfer is worthy of a Mission Impossible credit.
The movie would have been perfect if not for the ending - thus the 4.5 star rating. This is perhaps what ruined the movie for me. Instead of a derring-do ending, it chose to be politically correct and opted for a contrived "crime does not pay" ending - anti-climactic and unnecessary. This is the same situation with Point Break - very powerful movie choosing a water-downed politically correct ending.
My choice for an ending? Girl contemplates on the guy's cheating proposal and comes back to him with a counter proposal upping the game for bigger stakes. And the movie ends there, with a lead-in for a sequel.
There is nothing high-tech about this movie. It's all about carefully splicing film for surgical editing, suspense, humor and human empathy - we've all been students and can relate to the realism of the situation.
So, my burning question is, how come we can't come up with a movie like this? Why do we still use the done-to-death movie formula of Vilma Santos from back in the day? Or the lame Vic Sotto's slapstick Enteng Kabisote movies? The usual excuse Pinoy filmakers use is that there is no budget for something high tech, or movie goers need something they can relate to. Well, Bad Genius dispels all the excuses. I will use this as a benchmark for Filipino movie making - no more excuses please!
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