As far as premises go, Korean drama is not a very creative industry. Each genre has its own tropes it mostly refuses to budge from and having seen a few makes it easier to predict most. With melodrama, there are certain elements that are often there. A revenge story, a tragic romance where the woman is somehow connected to the villain's side, cartoonish antagonists, angst. "Big Man" sounded like a terribly soapy and silly work before it started. Yet somehow, it managed to become quite the pleasant surprise.
Kim Ji-hyeok (Kang Ji-hwan) is a simple man. Having been a petty criminal in the past, he is living a small life in a marketplace with the woman he calls mother, his biological parents having abandoned him as a baby. When Kang Dong-seok (Choi Daniel), a chaebol heir with a heart condition, needs a transplant to survive, his parents create a plan to kill Ji-hyeok and take his heart, which is a perfect match.
"Big Man" is not without flaws, perhaps the uninspired premise being one. However, the series quickly turns things around after the first few slow and admittedly unexciting episodes. The main antagonist spends most of them unconscious, but this gives the work the opportunity to develop the parent characters as secondary villains first, which was a great idea in the long run.
The villains are certainly one of the best parts of this work. Rather than being overly emotional, it is their view of life and people, their coldness and their self-absorbed mindset that just make them incredibly chilling to watch. They exist on another plane and their actors give great performances that support their detailed writing. This is one messed up family and it just functions as a really good antagonistic force.
The not overly dark revenge parts and Ji-hyeok's lovely connection to people are also very good. The latter is used throughout the series and matters in the points it eventually tries to make. And this is where "Big Man" succeeds in comparison to many a series. Consistency, at least for Korean drama standards. Having a steady point and getting to it, using a solid ensemble cast. This is about a man whose kind personality and trust in people inspires them to do better and win against those who are selfish and manipulative.
When it comes to the ever present romance parts and its female characters, "Big Man" does fall short. The female lead is a non-character for the most part and her refusal to see what is in front of her is frustrating. The twist here being, she actually becomes her own person and an active part of the plot eventually. Where most series end up making a mess of things, which is near the ending, this one made better use of its two women for it, even if not as good a use as it could and should have for main characters. The romance is also thankfully very secondary after a certain point, leaving room for the really interesting things and showing that the writer actually understood what those are.
One could argue the overly optimistic view of the drama on human kindness is also a flaw, since without luck and people's goodwill, Ji-hyeok would have failed and died before even reaching the midpoint, but since it is in keeping with the overarching idea the series has, its theme, it is more of an issue of preference than an actual fault. A fault is something which goes against a work's best interests, so this is rather a strength of this drama, if viewed without that preference in the way.
"Big Man" is nothing spectacular or fresh, but the plot and characters are written in a way that makes them engaging. It keeps things simple and does them well, making the overall work quite a balanced one for this medium and genre. Living up to its name, "Big Man" is the little drama that could and it is worth checking out.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Big Man""
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