Seoul’s answer to “Dirty Harry” Callahan, police detective Ma Seok-do (Ma Dong-seok/마동석 aka Don Lee, ETERNALS; TRAIN TO BUSAN), is back busting heads and wrists but this time his work takes him overseas where a new South Korean villain is up to no good. THE ROUNDUP offers fans of THE OUTLAWS everything they liked about the 2017 film and a whole lot more.
Taking place four years after Ma and his team cleaned up Seoul’s Chinatown in Garibong-dong, Ma and his captain, Jeon Il-man (Choi Gwi-hwa/최귀화, TRAIN TO BUSAN), head to Saigon to extradite a suspect who previously fled to Vietnam and now, strangely, wishes to return home to face trial. During their interrogation, Ma and Jeon learn about Kang Hae-sang (Son Seok-koo/손석구), a ruthless killer who has been kidnapping South Korean tourists to the Southeast Asian nation for several years. After Kang kidnaps the son of a wealthy business tycoon but fails to collect a ransom for him, Kang slips back into Korea to seek vengeance on the old man. Though Ma and his team are in hot pursuit, Kang proves to be an elusive catch as he continues his murder spree on Ma’s home turf.
While THE ROUNDUP follows a fairly predictable path with plenty of fan service, it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable thanks to Ma’s charismatic performance as the Seoul Police Department’s bulldozer. Yes, he’s big but he’ll crush you in an instant, which he does to Kang’s minions throughout the film. As in THE OUTLAWS, knives, hatchets, machetes and cleavers are the weapons of choice for the bad guys and there is plenty of mano a mano combat involving copious amounts of blood. I was surprised to see a fair number of children in my audience but even though the film has a Category IIB rating in Hong Kong, between the violence and the language, it is not suitable for that age group unless you want to give them nightmares or, best case, turn them away from joining a triad.
As entertaining as THE OUTLAWS is, THE ROUNDUP is even more so. It’s funnier and more self-assured than its predecessor. Ma and the other actors were clearly having a blast making this film and it’s showing up in the box office. THE ROUNDUP is the fastest film since 2019’s PARASITE to surpass six million ticket sales domestically and, as of yesterday (May 30), it has already outperformed THE OUTLAWS. Although the film has so far only been released regionally, I suspect its distribution will expand as word about how good it is continues to get out.
THE ROUNDUP is playing it Hong Kong right now. Yes, it’s violent but it’s a lot of fun too.
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