iflix review: 'Bad Genius' series doesn't really add anything new to hit Thai movie

Fred Hawson

Posted at Sep 26 2020 06:04 AM

A scene from the series 'Bad Genius'

In 2017, the highest-grossing movie in Thailand was a film about cheating in school entitled "Bad Genius." It was also the biggest Thai film all over Southeast Asia, plus Taiwan and China. This film was one of the rare Thai films to be shown in local cinemas and was also very popular here. The direction, editing and the musical score made it as exciting as any crime caper film. I liked the over-the-top cheating hi-jinks the film used to deliver its message for academic integrity.

In August this year, a new TV series based on this film "Bad Genius" was released, with new director Pat Boonnitipat, and an all-new cast of attractive and charismatic young actors. Presently, all 12 episodes are already available to watch for free on the iflix platform. I was curious how this TV series was going to spin this tale of cheating in school and standardized exams, so I decided to watch this series despite my apprehension about the number of episodes. At first glance, 12 episodes seems too long to expand the story of the original movie which may mean that the creators had more surprises up their sleeves.

Lynn (June Plearnpichaya Komalarajun) was a genius student on scholarship in a prestigious high school. Her friend Grace (Sawanya Paisarnpayak) needed to pass her exam very badly to be accepted into the school play, so Lynn decided to pass her the answers to help her. Grace's rich boyfriend Pat (Ice Paris Intarakomalyasut) got the idea of paying Lynn cash to help him as well in his exams, and he later extends the offer to his other friends with low grades like him. The other genius student of the school is Bank (Jaonaay Jinjett Wattanasin), who liked Lynn, but he was getting suspicious about her involvement in this cheating scheme.

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From Episode 1, the story unfolded almost exactly like the story of the movie, but some extra personal details put in to prolong the drama a little more. Grace was given the angle of being an aspiring actress for various school plays but can't seem to bag the lead role despite her talent. Pat was a scion of a hotel magnate Ake (Ruengrit McIntosh) who was very frustrated about his son's academic mediocrity. Lynn had a mother Wan (Rasee Wacharapolmek) who abandoned her husband Vit (Saksit Tangthong) and daughter to pursue her study in Australia, and eventually remarried there as well. Bank's mother (Ratchanok Sangchuto) was given a debilitating spine condition which was a source of his desperation for money.

The cheating techniques ranged from passing an eraser in the shoe to hand signals representing certain letters timed to the hands of the clock. There was one particularly elaborate cheating style which even involved the sound system of the school so students in different rooms can get in on Lynn's coaching. Later, they would upgrade to a higher level of exam cheating as they try to outwit the STIC international exam system by taking advantage of the time difference between Sydney and Bangkok. Like the movie, the suspense and tension of these cheating scenes was created by tight editing and foreboding music.

By Episode 10 though, the story already went beyond the movie version. They added one even more elaborate mass cheating plot for the national GAT/PAT university entrance exams where they stand to earn several million baht from more than 800 clients. This plan was just mentioned at the end of the movie, and I did not like already. When they actually pushed through with this outlandish and overtly criminal undertaking, the more I did not like what I was watching. For high school students to come up with something as heinous as this was totally absurd, even if they were corrupt geniuses.

Overall, this series did not really add anything new to the story or the message of the original movie. While I appreciate the efforts of the cast and crew, I really did not see a good reason for the film to be remade into a series like this at all, especially since that first film was just a big hit only three years ago.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."