Ma Dong-seok, a Korean-American actor with bulging muscles best known for his appearance in Train to Busan, returns to the big screen with thriller The Villagers.

The 47-year-old action star, who is often compared to Dwayne Johnson for their similarity in masculine appearance, will take on the role of a physical education teacher named Yeok Gi-cheol who comes to a high school in the countryside.

When a schoolgirl disappears, and no one in the small village takes issue with it, he tracks down all leads to find the truth behind her disappearance.

South Korea’s answer to Dwayne Johnson: beefy actor Ma Dong-seok

Ma, a late bloomer who only recently shot to stardom since his 2005 debut, has known about the film’s director Im Jin-sun and his scenario for the past five or so years. “Many of my recent films are what I’ve been involved in from the pre-planning. For The Villagers, I’ve developed many ideas with its director when I was an unknown actor,” he said during a press conference in Seoul on Monday. “Although it is a small-budget film, I’m confident I’ve done my best under the given circumstances.”

Rising star Kim Sae-ron plays a schoolmate who questions her friend’s sudden disappearance, while actor Lee Sang-yeob takes on the role of a popular yet mysterious art teacher.

Im calls his film a “humanistic” thriller. “The plot looks like something predictable. But, in the format of a strong thriller, I have strived hard to make it a good drama, too,” he said. “Looking at many cases and incidents that people give [turn a blind eye to] instead of trying to communicate with each other, I thought no grown-up should behave like that. I wanted to tell the message through my characters and their stories naturally.”

Actor Lee Byung-hun and ‘Along With The Gods’ stars team up

Like Ma’s recent films, such as Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days and Champion, the actor in his new film will flex his muscles in powerful action scenes. Regarding concerns that Ma has been portraying the same action star image, he said he has heard such opinions for over a decade.

“I've heard I’m just portraying the same muscular image since 10 years ago. But still I think if there is a director or producer who wants Ma Dong-seok-brand action characters, I should do my best to meet their needs,” he said. “If you ask if I want to attempt a totally different character, my answer is yes. Currently, I’m preparing to take on a character that I’ve never done before.”

The Villagers will hit local theatres on November 7.

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This article was originally written by Park Jin-hai for  The Korea Times .