With no episode of The Genius this week, I found myself digging this 2012 film out of an old hard drive as a kind of substitute. Of course, The Genius was based on Liar Game so, as substitutes go, it's a pretty good one.
The story concerns Akiyama (an ex con-man and expert in games, probabilities, and psychology) who, despite his criminal record, is now lecturing at a University! The previous female lead role, Kanzaki Nao, is not around so instead there is another innocent, well-meaning woman to fill that role: Shinomiya Yu.
Comparing the two (Liar Game and The Genius) gives a good lesson on the difference between a drama and an unscripted variety show. What works in one may not work in another. The Genius can rely on returning contestants to build up empathy with the audience over a number of weeks. The characters in Liar Game are just stereotypes: their purpose is to act as pieces pushed around as the game progresses.
On the other hand, Liar Game can really get into the mechanics of a particular game, and set up particular situations for dramatic effect. No one in The Genius would throw away all of their tokens, as Akiyama does in Liar Game: Reborn, and still be able to manipulate the game.
In a way, Liar Game has been surpassed by its variety-show child. After five years since its first episode, the desolate landscapes and neon lighting seem a bit old fashioned. And after seeing the emotions and reactions of various players on The Genius, watching Liar Game's pouting genius sulk in the corner is a bit underwhelming.
But the film was entertaining, and there was a moment halfway through the film where I absolutely couldn't see a way for Akiyama to win. In that sense, the film was much better than I was expecting. But at the same time, I hope the series has finally run its course.