The Man in Love – The Reel Bits
Korean romantic drama gets remake treatment as a heart of gold debt collector abuses his position to get a date.
Han dong-wook Man in love (2014) has the kind of premise that was meant for a remake. A gangster asks a debtor’s daughter to go out with him until the money is paid off. Questionable power dynamics aside, in this case Taiwanese debut filmmaker Yin Chen-hao beat Hollywood to the fist as he reworked this romantic drama into a new market.
At Yin LOVE MAN (當 男人 戀愛 時), the gangster is A-Cheng (Roy Chiu), a local debt collector with a soft touch. His predilection for violent solutions ends before some of the struggling businesses he can’t quite bring himself to shake up – much to his boss’s chagrin. Yet his only outlet for affection is a sex worker, and he leads a fairly lonely life.
When he is sent to the hospital to pick up a terminally ill man, he meets the daughter Hao Ting (Ann Hsu). Their relationship is frosty at first, so when A-Cheng suggests they go out to pay off the debt, his reaction is as sour as you can imagine. Of course, if you’ve seen the original – or any romantic drama made since the dawn of cinema – then you’ll know that true love is only a few micro crises away.
Let’s talk to the elephant in the room. The whole premise of the film is based on an abuse of power, placing any romantic development in the shadow of Stockholm Syndrome. Time and inevitability are the only real ingredients in this love story, which requires the development of a terminal illness to give this tale a sense of urgency or dramatic tension.
Fortunately, there are a few characters that you really don’t mind spending time with. Roy Chiu, recently seen in a supporting role for Detective Chinatown 3, is a slightly more complex performance than one would expect for this role. Carrying the lion’s share of dramatic moments, he goes from a violent executor to a tender romantic and fragile in the last moments. Likewise, Hsu pulls away from the back of The Tag along series for a romantic outing.
If you manage to get through the super dramatic third act, which includes a montage of self-loathing and a fatal diagnosis, then you can get over the emotion without too much sniffling. You know exactly where it’s going, but still find yourself sucked in. LOVE MAN is a solid remake, and you can be sure it won’t be the last time we see this story.
2021 | Taiwan | DIRECTORS: Yin Chen-hao | WRITER: Fu Kai-ling, Chien Chieh-chung | DISTRIBUTORS: Roy Chiu, Ann Hsu, Tsai Chen-nan | DISTRIBUTOR: Netflix, Taiwan Film Festival in Australia 2021 | DURATION: 120 minutes | RELEASE DATE: September 16 – September 30, 2021 (TWFF 2021)