BFI #LFF 2017: BAD GENIUS Film Review


Tense, pacey and wickedly smart, BAD GENIUS is an exam-heist thriller like you’ve never seen before

Whether you’re 16 or 60, almost everyone can remember the pressure of high school exams. But while here in the UK GCSE and A Level results are certainly important, in Thailand good grades mean everything. Good marks on an exam not only mean honour and prestige to your family but also the chance to study abroad at a Western university, as Nattawut Poonpiriya cleverly demonstrates in his latest film BAD GENIUS.

BAD GENIUS tells the story of Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying), a high school teen who decides to use her skills as a straight A student to make some money. After helping out a couple of wealthy classmates with a test, Lynn decides to set up an exam-cheating business and is soon offered the opportunity to make millions. Begged by her “friends” Grace and Pat, she is tasked with passing the STIC exam in order to help them gain entrance to an international university, a test which is taken at the same date and time all over the world under strictly monitored conditions. Lynn’s daring plan involves flying to Australia in order to sit the exam and deliver the answers back to her friends in Thailand before the exam takes place once again in her home country. The only setback is that they need another genius scholar to help them pass and the only person who fits the profile is ‘Bank’ (Chanon Santinatornkul), Lynn’s scholarship-student rival who staunchly detests cheating of any kind.

Tense, pacey and wickedly smart, BAD GENIUS is an intense, adrenaline-fueled exam-heist thriller like you’ve never seen before. The film’s whip-smart script deserves full marks for turning the most boring of subjects into a highly engaging, high-risk caper, with Vichaya Vatanasapt’s equally excellent electronic score adding to the drama.

Taking cues from Hollywood heist films, Director Nattawut Poonpiriya goes all out on BAD GENIUS, incorporating old school close-ups of intense concentration with fast-paced edits. While the elaborate scheme isn’t totally convincing, it’s so neatly presented that it’s fun to watch with Poonpiriya playing out the action like a cutthroat thriller.


As with all teen movies, the strength of BAD GENIUS hinges on its lead performances and the young cast depict the teens with enough depth, individuality and comic timing to impress. Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying excels in her acting debut as gifted straight-A scholarship student Lynn, navigating her way through various teen social issues.

Chanon Santinatornkul shines as her rival Bank, supplying a fresh angle on the frenemy formula as he awkwardly falls for Lynn while Eisaya Hosuwan is equally impressive as the popular but insecure Grace whose subtle emotional blackmail leads one to question whether her friendship with Lynn is just a show.

But the real interest is the interplay between nerdiness and social success, with Poonpiriya‘s subtle yet stinging script calling out Thailand’s social class system and a grades-obsessed academic culture. Who’d have thought exams could be this entertaining?

4.5 out of 5 stars

BAD GENIUS screens at the BFI London Film Festival on Friday 13 October 2017.