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Ma Dong-seok (left) plays the police officer Don Lee, and Choi Gwi-hwa plays captain Jeon Il-mann a still from The Roundup.

Review | The Roundup movie review: Ma Dong-seok, Son Suk-ku face off in riotously entertaining sequel to 2017 action thriller The Outlaws

  • Ma Dong-seok is back as the powerhouse detective chasing down a ferocious killer, played by Son Suk-ku
  • The humour that runs through the story and the captivating performances elevate this sequel above the normal Korean action films

4/5 stars

“The beast cop is back” screams the advertising for Lee Sang-yong’s The Roundup, the red-blooded, ultra-violent and riotously entertaining follow-up to 2017’s The Outlaws. Ma Dong-seok, aka Don Lee, reprises his role as the aforementioned heavyweight law enforcer, who travels to Vietnam to extradite a petty criminal, only to pick up the trail of Son Suk-ku’s ferocious killer.
The Roundup scored the biggest opening day since before the pandemic in South Korea earlier this month, surpassing the 3-million-viewer mark faster than any domestic film since 2019’s Parasite.

In The Outlaws, Detective Ma Seok-do (Ma) and his men squared off against a clan of ruthless Chinese gangsters looking to seize control of Seoul’s Garibong district. This time out, it is Ma who finds himself on foreign soil, when he accompanies his captain, Jeon Il-man (Choi Gwi-hwa), to Ho Chi Minh City for what should be a simple extradition.

On arrival, they discover that their terrified charge is fleeing from bloodthirsty criminal Kang (Son, currently on TV in the popular series My Liberation Notes), who is connected to the recent kidnapping of a wealthy Korean businessman.

Defying orders from the consulate, Vietnamese police and their chief back home, Ma and Jeon insist on staying in-country until Kang has been apprehended. Matters are complicated when the kidnapped man’s father (Nam Mun-cheol) refuses to be extorted, and sends a team of mercenaries after Kang, triggering a blood spattered maelstrom of murderous carnage.

Son Suk-ku plays the killer Kang in a still from The Roundup.

What appears to be just the latest in a long and increasingly exhausting line of Korean action vehicles propelled purely by histrionic machismo, The Roundup is elevated to legitimate must-see status by captivating performances and a relentlessly disarming sense of humour.

Son is truly chilling as the dead-eyed, seemingly unstoppable, hatchet-wielding killer, but his opponent is not someone of equally clinical proficiency, but Ma’s lumbering, hangdog anti-hero, who once again deconstructs the action hero with his gentle giant persona.

The 51-year-old beefcake, who also earns a screenwriting credit here, is awkward, bashful, even clumsy, when he’s not sending adversaries flying across rooms or through windscreens with a single sledgehammer punch. Dismissing alpha male expectations with willing abandon, without ever compromising his indomitable presence, Ma proves himself to be a truly unique, utterly captivating leading man.

Ma Dong-seok plays Don Lee in a still from The Roundup.

While everyone involved in The Roundup steps up to deliver a freight train of unstoppable entertainment, all are locked in orbit around Ma’s undeniable star power.

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