(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Bad Genius

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: Poor scholarship student Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying) gets roped into a scheme by the wealthy students at her school to start leaking the answers to tests through a series of codes. Her scheme eventually escalates into a full-fledged crime ring as the students target an international university admissions exam that will earn them millions.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: Because you should watch the sleek original before Hollywood gets its grubby hands on it.

Bad Genius has no right to look as good and be as good as it is. Thai director Nattawut Poonpiriya takes a relatively low-stakes subject — kids cheating on high school exams — and turns it into high-stakes thrills by marrying the teen ennui of Sofia Coppola with a breakneck editing style that would make Edgar Wright blush. Stylish with a capital “S,” Bad Genius is a heist thriller that broke box office records across Southeast Asia when it was released in 2017, becoming Thailand’s highest-grossing movie of the year, and would go on to dominate the film festival circuit as a genre darling. It’s no surprise that Hollywood would come calling a few years later, though I can’t imagine that a Hollywood director would be able to top the gonzo direction of Poonpiriya.

Model-turned-actress Chuengcharoensukying is painfully cool as Lynn, a poor high school student who manages to score a scholarship at a prestigious school. At first introduced as a demure genius, it doesn’t take much for Lynn to break bad, befriending a popular but airheaded classmate named Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan), who she begins to help by leaking answers to a test. But Grace brings in her rich boyfriend Pat (Teeradon Supapunpinyo), and soon they’re operating a full-time crime ring.

The satisfying surprise to Bad Genius is that Lynn is as morally corrupt as her rich friends, but it’s her fellow scholarship student Bank (Chanon Santinatornkul) whose soul is at stake after Lynn drags him into her scheme. There’s a fascinating thread of class tension that Poonpiriya plucks at that feels like it preceded the “eat the rich” phenomenon kicked off by Parasite. The audience can’t help but root for this group of cheaters, no matter the moral uncertainty and no matter how it maintains the status quo of the wealthy getting what they want with little effort, because at the end of the day, Lynn and Bank are taking these rich kids for all they’re worth.

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