Thoughts on Bad Genius (Chalard Games Goeng / ฉลาดเกมส์โกง 2017)

Bad Genius (Chalard Games Goeng / ฉลาดเกมส์โกง 2017) is an impeccably made heist film, with some of the best editing magic in cinema—never has taking an exam felt so high-stakes and nervewracking. It’s over two hours long but feels like 90 minutes due to its organically developed plot. Some critics knock its ending, but that just goes to show how seductive the social justice self-rationalizations are that suck in Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying) and, later and deeper, Bank (Chanon Santinatornkul). The film ends on the moral high ground not just because it’s about cheating high school students, but more importantly because it’s the only way to round out its social critique: A bad system corrupts the corruptible obviously, but it also surreptitiously twists the actions of good people simply trying to survive. In Confucian East Asia, money is small consolation for lack of learning, but the poor wages of scholarship make for empty esteem.

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