Yet I’m back with another movie review! When a film experience is that good and my mind is full to the brim with ideas, it surely reels me back to write here.
It has been a year since my half-a-month sojourn in Thailand. What better way to commemorate this than with a Thai movie? While I have seen a couple of internationally-known Thai movies in years, I haven’t watched a single one inside the cinema.
While lazily browsing through Facebook videos, I came across the trailer for Nattawut Poonpiriya’s ‘Bad Genius’ on 9GAG. I have wondered if it would be shown here in the Philippines because the trailer got me hooked. And then, I was surprised to see it on Sureseats! While we originally planned to watch ‘Happy Death Day’, I thought the latter could wait.
First of all, I was delighted to see that the cinema was almost packed with viewers. I have not seen a single promotion of this film on TV. But as a good word-of-mouth is a foolproof way of promoting a movie (case in point: ‘Kita Kita‘), I should not have been surprised, non?
*MAJOR SPOILER WARNING*
The movie revolves around a group of students with varying degrees of intellectual capability and economic resources. You have the geniuses Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying) and Bank (Chanon Santinatornkul), the ditzy but good-natured Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan) and rich-boy Pat (Teeradon Supapunpinyo).
One of the things I liked the most about it was I recalled a couple of cinematic devices I’ve learned from my film classes in the university. The most notable of these was the ‘Vertigo’ effect, popularized by Alfred Hitchcock in, well, ‘Vertigo’. This zoom in, dolly out was cleverly employed at a crucial time that Lynn had this out-of-body experience to work under the pressure of single-handedly finishing the task.
The second one was the trunk shots, mostly associated with Quentin Tarantino. These low-angle shots were employed in most, if not all, bad ass films by Tarantino (e.g. Kill Bill: Volume 1, Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds). In ‘Bad Genius’, it was aptly used when the protagonists were looking at a duffle bag full of ‘cheating money’ from other STIC hopefuls. These kids truly have criminal minds.
Lastly, and most notably, there were a couple of scenes with Lynn standing next to a mirror facing another mirror. If you have ever ridden an elevator with two mirrors facing each other, then you most likely have noticed these infinite reflections. Lynn had to stop by and look at herself, an excellent device to show her introspection on her decisions and what she had become.
‘Knowledge is Power’
We often here the adage ‘knowledge is power’. Imagine using your musical genius to tip-off your classmates for a multiple choice exam with Morse Code like keys i.e. A: Beethoven’s Für Elise, B: Mozart’s Piano Sonata K. 331, 3rd Movement, C: Mozart’s Piano Sonata K. 331, 1st Movement, and D: Bach’s Minuet if G major. (And also Bank’s Classical Music for Studying actually exists on YouTube!)
Amidst (or maybe due to) economic challenges, both Lynn and Bank were able to harness their brain power to make a profit. Albeit reluctantly, Bank agreed to be part of the heist to help his mother and their struggling laundry business.
Towards the end, after everything the duo had been through, we saw a turnaround in the once incorruptible Bank. When all that you have worked for had eventually flown out of the window, there was no turning back.
What did Lord Acton said about before? “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
With this high mental aptitude, he found a new potential to further profit from it. This left Lynn in a moral dilemma, faced with the potential blackmail from Bank. In this interesting exercise of game theory, where one prisoner threatens to defect and spill the beans, it took a great deal of energy for Lynn to take the power back and control the narrative at the end.
‘Bad Genius’ was allegedly inspired by true events. A quick Google search pointed me to a cheating scandal that took place in China. Of course, it is highly dramatized and hyperbolic narration of cheating that happens inside the education system.
It was an exciting movie that evoked memories of my own education. Of course, I will not give detailed accounts of my personal experience here, but I do not have a clean slate with this one. I have been on both ends of the spectrum; especially, at one point, trading papers for a week’s worth of lunch.
Lynn and Bank were mere pawns by those who had control of economic power. It was a cycle of exploitation and class relations, where there power of knowledge is also a mere commodity. What better way to illustrate this than the Machiavellian manipulation of Pat that brought Bank inside the gang? With this, Bank’s coat turning, Lynn’s sly maneuvering and Grace’s losing herself, these exemplifies man’s potential for moral corruption and what Hobbes identified as ‘man in the state of nature seeks nothing but his own selfish pleasure’.
In the grand scheme of things, it makes you question how effective the current education system is. And how sad is that?