The opening scenes of Kai Ko's Bad Education: Directors Cut effectively throw us into the center of hell. Before you can wrap your head around that visual of a drunk woman (Ning Chang) getting raped by a taxi driver (Chih-Wei Cheng), you see a boy, Chang Po-wei (Berant Zhu), drinking piss from a bottle. Also, that rape scene looks so casual, as if it's as normal as watching a person falling down on the floor. I can understand if some viewers end up taking a shower. Bad Education makes you feel dirty, and the kids - Chang, Han (Edison Song), and Wang Hung-chuan (Kent Tsai) - bring out the worst tendencies of teenagers. You might catch a glimpse of your past (that school-going, foul-mouthed version of you who loved exaggerating things to become the center of attention), leading you to feel disturbed or embarrassed by the behavior of the young characters. Chang, Han, and Wang give an accurate portrait of high-school students. They are all bark and no bite. The "bad boys" do silly stunts and talk about sex like an expert so that they can be considered "cool" individuals. Throw them into a real problem, and they will start to whimper.
In Bad Education, Chang drinks the urine to show his other two friends that he's a daredevil. But he cries like a baby when he's asked to cut his finger. People like Chang go through life (or at least school life) by maintaining a superficial facade. On the night of their graduation, Chang tells Han and Wang that they should seal their friendship with dark and dirty secrets. And so we hear some truly horrific confessions. Chang reveals that he raped a professor's mentally challenged daughter, and Han admits to murdering a homeless man and his dog. When it's Wang's turn, he talks about tame stuff like his dad's affair and stealing exam papers. When his friends push him further, he talks about a fire incident, which is exposed as a lie within minutes.
Chang and Han talk about their respective incidents so convincingly that you immediately believe them. On top of that, Kai Ko establishes such an ugly mood that you expect only terrible things to be true. But Chang and Han lie to Wang (this further underlines the cruel nature of the teenagers). They play with him and force him to throw paint on a gangster. Wang, at first, hesitates to commit such a foolish act but then notices Chang and Han making fun of him, which fills him with anger. And so, he runs towards the man and throws paint on him. How did someone like Wang - a smart kid who gets admission into a college - end up being friends with bullies like Chang and Han? Bad Education doesn't give us an answer. It merely asks us to accept this friendship, which serves as a warning for all teenagers: Stay away from the wrong crowd.
Perhaps, audiences will be less offended by the antics of the young characters and more by the treatment of the rape victim. Through the performance of a ritual with thick semen, she is somewhat converted into a comic figure. Wikipedia informs me that Bad Education is Kai Ko's directorial debut, and I am surprised to see that he didn't censor his vision to make his film palatable for the woke era. But I still wondered if this drunk woman was really required in the movie. The story could have moved forward without her presence. For instance, that bad guy could have continued walking towards the taxi, or one of the policemen could have become suspicious after seeing the slow, backward movement of the car. When she says, "I hope you boys learned your lesson," it feels as if the film itself is criticizing its characters.
And after this criticism, the movie becomes dull. It distances itself from the events, and as a result, everything on the screen looks ineffectual. The first two chapters are charged with emotions. The third chapter is dreadfully impersonal. The violence has no edge. Three fingers are cut, but we don't wince even once. The scenes appear neutral. There is no sense of excitement or repulsion. Chang, Han, and Wang get punished for their actions, but due to the blandness, it seems as if you are being punished for enjoying or strongly reacting to the previous chapters. Ultimately, what Bad Education does is that it establishes Kai Ko as someone who has a confident voice. In his next film, he should amplify and sustain his voice for the entire runtime instead of suppressing it during the final portions.
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