Yong Soo, in his feature debut, took upon himself a rather difficult task, of shooting a movie that combines comedy, drama and gangster film (probably the most popular genres of Korean cinema) but does not become a total cliché. Thankfully, his main cast consists of Sol Kyung-gu and Cho Jin-woong, two actors that are quite experienced in all the aforementioned categories. Let us see how he fared though.
The story revolves around two completely opposite men. Yeong-gi has embezzled his boss's money to use in a stock investment that fell through completely and is in a rather big trouble as the film begins. Furthermore, his rather short temper has brought even more problems for him, as he always seems to be in some sort of fight. After a number of incidents that lead him to court, he ends up with a sentence for social service, which leads him to the service of Jang-su, an extremely rich owner of a law firm, who is, however, terminally ill and paralyzed from the waist down. Jang-su offers Yeong-gi a deal of handing over his rather lucrative life insurance policy, provided that he will take care of him and help him fulfill a number of tasks in his bucket list. Thus, a rather unlikely friendship and a more than eventful "trip" begin.
The flaws of the movie are quite evident, and to a point, considering its intense mainstream nature, expectant. The sentimentalism and the unlikely melodramatic moments eventually take over, the script is filled with holes, the product placement is intense, and the majority of the secondary characters are quite thin, in essence just providing a kind of justification for the events and the reactions of the protagonists.
However, and this is one big however, Yong Soo directs a movie that manages to rise above all the aforementioned elements, particularly due to a plethora of truly hilarious episodes, and the incredible chemistry of the two main actors. The scene in the match, the car ride and the supermarket walk are just a few that will stay on mind, with the antithetical chemistry of the strong, able bodied, but somewhat naive Yeong-gil with the rich, extremely intelligent but handicapped Jang-su actually carrying the film for the majority of its duration. At the same time, Yong Soo presents an alternative perspective on the concept of revenge, which is painted in its bleakest colors here, in another element that somehow works in the chaos of the narrative.
Park Sung-joo-I's cinematography follows the polished, focused-on-impression rules of the Korean mainstream, in a way, though, that fits the overall aesthetics quite nicely. Kim Sun-min's editing on the other hand, is truly exceptional, both regarding the pace of the film and the succession of the scenes, with his work being one of the most significant parts of the entertainment aspect.
"Man of Men" does not avoid clichés, not at all actually. At the same time, however, Yong Soo has managed to work over them and to present a rather enjoyable film, particularly regarding its comedic part.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Man of Men""
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