(Our) Far East Film Festival 2023 begins with the question: are we born bad or do we become bad? The answer comes from Kai Ko, his work first as a director after having exploded as an actor, and leaves no respite.
Evil isn’t born, it’s made… or not?
Let’s start our review with this question Bad Educationthe film with which Kai Ko returns to Far East Film Festival 2023 no longer as an interpreter – he had gone crazy in Giddens Ko’s debut film, You Are the Apple of My Eye – but as a director, and in his first work he definitely convinces. Because he offers many elements seen in genre films but re-assembled in a new, or at least captivating way. Kai Ko wonders and asks his audience: what percentage of the world is made up of good people and bad people? We would think, naively and ideally, 50 and 50, instead it seems to be 10 and 10. The rest 80% so how does it behave? According to Ko, he leans both ways; but in the end he will lean towards the bad one, he tells us through this film that he hardly leaves a moment of respite, also thanks to the small and effective duration (1 hour and 17 minutes, almost a mirage in 2023).
A film that is enjoyed and disgusted
Severed fingers, insects, blood. Nothing is missing in the – frenetic and tight – staging of Bad Education, which starts from a challenge of three guys who have just graduated from high school and are partying on a rooftop. One of the three offers the other two a pact to stay bros for life. No pact of blood – or piss, we said that nothing was missing in the film to taste and disgust the viewer – but to tell each other a murky secret to take to the grave and with which to keep others in check for life. Two out of three confess to unspeakable acts, now it’s the turn of the third, who, guilty of not having a juicy enough secret (an adjective that we choose not by chance) is even challenged to take it out on a boss of the local underworld. Who knows who educated them? Was it the proverbial bad company that led them down this path or were they born with this predisposition? Many questions that, during a night that the three high school students will certainly not be able to forget, are asked to the public through the actions of the trio, one more improbable and reprehensible than the other.
A film that entertains and enjoys
In the midst of all this horror, we laugh as we witness what the three young protagonists will do on that fateful night. This is because the situation for them will become increasingly surreal and tragicomic, leading them to discuss their friendship and their future during university. Kai Ko tells us that, in the moment of need, in the moment of the fateful choice, in that specific circumstance, in any human being, especially if young and not yet fully formed, the most primordial survival instinct is triggered and he would be willing to do anything in order to continue living. Betraying friends, even old ones, no longer becomes a big deal or a terrible dilemma, as is being willing to literally walk over them in order to prevail. Drunk taxi drivers, raped prostitutes, criminal boss chefs: the three will meet many over the top characters that night, which will end with an extremely poetic and incisive image, with a shot from above that gets further and further away. Just as those who remained on the screen are moving away, in different directions. Bad Education it is also a cynical and bloody treatise on friendship, destined not to survive (once again, a term chosen not by chance) after a certain phase of life, especially if juvenile. A first rite of passage into adulthood, which the trio deal with in the worst possible way.
There are influences from Tarantino but also from Asian genre cinema in Bad Education, which proves to be an extremely visual product in the often seamless camera movements, in the chosen shots, in the photography, in the almost pulp staging: in the food is swallowed (or vomited), in blood (which never gushes excessively, it must be said), in chases, in the passage from one chapter to another of this surreal story that the director seems to tell us could easily happen to any of us, even if we think we could never go that far. A disturbing, disturbing, provocative film. Perhaps, simply, dramatically (sur)real.
Humanity doesn’t cut a fine figure in the review of Bad Education as well as in the film itself with which Kai Ko returns to the Far East Film Festival, this time behind the camera and in his directorial debut. A disturbing story, which does not give anyone discounts, disgustingly engaging, which tells us about the friendship of three young people and their bildungsroman in the most raw and cynical way possible.
Because we like it
- The three leading actors, very good and with good chemistry.
- Setting the film during a single night starting from a bet.
- Philosophical reflection on humanity and friendship.
- The final scene, extremely poetic.
- From tragic the film becomes surreal and almost comical, and this could disturb someone, as well as the rest of the film.