THE GENIUS CLUB
(2006)

Wickedly twisted, superbly mystical and wonderfully suspenseful, 'The Genius Club' is a brilliant dramatic movie that doesn't have to rely on gore or run-of-the-mill slashing scenes in order to frighten you, but instead focuses on an intellectual battle between highly-intelligent people.

It can make one wary at first when you hear that all of it happens in a single room with only eight main actors, but it’s pulled off extremely well; the film is so carefully constructed and tightly made that it is thoroughly entertaining at its core.

Sometimes the simplest ideas can be very effective and produce great thrills because the script knows the boundaries and generates thrills by reminding us all the time that we are stuck within those boundaries (12 Angry Men and My Dinner with Andre come to mind as examples) and so I hoped that ‘The Genius Club’ would manage to do the same and work with a good sense of claustrophobia and tension.

The actors, Carol Abney, Stephen Baldwin, and the tour de force acting of Tom Sizemore, makes this film watchable. But it's Chey's direction that stands out as exceptional. The film is quite long at 2 hours, but this running time is used to build up the intensity.

If you watch the film carefully and take note of everything that's happening I'm sure you'll understand the ending and the mystery that is slowly unlocking. You should be able to get the ‘3 words’ if you closely observe the interactions.

The premise of the story is a twisted madman named Armand ‘invites’ seven geniuses, with astronomical IQs, in a cat-and-mouse game of super-intellectual wit and cunning. With each answer, the scoreboard goes up or down. Of course, this is partly illogical as each answer is subjective and there is no way you could disseminate an objective score.
Throughout the night, each genius is exposed and, sure enough, their characters go through the wringer.

The casino owner’s charcter arc is exceptionally good as she enters the game with an abrasive and superior attitude, but in the end, her character changes (in one nights) and it is truly a work of art to see this change take place. The same goes for the seminary student, the President, and finally the pizza delivery guy – all have powerful character arcs.

Movies, such as ‘Wall Street’, ‘Jerry Maguire’, etc., work well because of the charcters redemption in the end and the struggles to get to that point.

The Genius Club also has a Hitchcockian flair to it – the tense build up in one location much like the seminal classic film, ‘A Rear Window’ starring Jimmy Stewart.

Admittedly, if you are not a fan of Hitchcock or have never seen a Hitchcock, much of the enjoyment can be taken out of this film. The story plods along at first, only really picking up momentum half-way through. However, that said, the final half-hour more than makes up for any lack of pace in the early reels.

And if you've never seen Hitchcock, there is no finer introduction to the man than this movie.

Superb story, intense suspense, gripping performances. I loved it.

Grade A-

Directed by Tim Chey. Screenplay by Tim Chey. Produced by Arch Bonnema, Daishi Takiishi Cinematography by Tyler Allison.

Starring: Carol Abney, Stephen Baldwin, Jacob Bonnema, Tricia Helfer, Matt Medrano, Philip Moon, Paula Jai Parker, Huntley Riter, Jack Scalia, Tom Sizemore

Rated: PG subject matter