Watch any of actor Don Lee’s earlier films and you’ll know he wasn’t as sizeable as he has been in the last, say, maybe eight or ten years. Regardless of whether his beefy build was a planned effort or not, however, you have to give it to him for using it to his advantage and ultimately paving a way for an evolution in Korean cinema of late with a raft of hard-hitting roles as a big, hard-hitting character with enough screen charisma to match the likes of Schwarzenegger and current business partner Stallone to name a certain few, which now brings us to Lee Sang-yong’s The Outlaws follow-up, The Roundup.
Enter Ma, the “Beast Cop” himself played once more by actor Don Lee in a story now set in 2008 where he and his unit’s captain, Jeon Il-man, are sent to extradite a criminal operating in Vietnam. The case eventually leads to a more grisly incident involving the rich son of a wealthy Korean magnate who gets kidnapped and murdered by elusive criminal Kang Hae-sang, and his gang of miscreants, including a lanky, machete wielding sidekick in an effort to steal his money. When the father learns of his son’s death and sends a gang of mercenaries to kill Kang, things get even more deadly as they are complicated just as Ma and Il-man are faced with Vietnam’s endless policing bureaucracy, except for when things take a twist at just the right moment for Ma and his team to help dispense justice to another killer who’s got it coming.
Straight and to the point, The Roundup stands as another no-holds barred action thriller out of South Korea, placing actor Lee squarely in his element for the lead role. Combined with great chemistry among the supporting characters opposite Lee, including actor Choi Gwi-hwa who plays unit captain Jeon, and with none other than actor Son Seok-gu rightly earning our attention as the sequel’s murderous go-to villain, the film offers a well-balanced approach to the action and comedy, all of which are delivered at a great pace with a fun mix that doesn’t get in the film’s way.
The action is something of a different beast as well with the use of ‘Oners’ to feature some of the fight action coinciding with its use of dynamic angles to engage the action. The role of Ma is accentuated even more with the fights as well with some camera movements aimed specifically at capturing the moments he either throws, punches or kicks someone, and it’s an absolute beauty to watch. The action and stunts get taken up a notch in the second half with a bit of car chase scenery. Actor Park Ji-hwan leads the way this time reprising his role from the first film now as a slippery conman who gets dragooned into helping Ma catch Kang in the second half.
The Roundup is but the second of an eight-film series that is in the works with actor Lee helping steer the wheel, in addition to balancing out his career more expansively outside of South Korea. Seeing The Outlaws is certainly recommended viewing, but you’re more than welcome to start with The Roundup to help get a good footing in with this franchise before long.
The Roundup was released in limited theaters on May 20 from Capelight Pictures. The film is also screening for this year’s edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival.