It is easy to see why Ma Dong-Seok aka Don Lee is such a megastar in South Korea. It is not hard to be a larger-than-life personality when you look like the only person in the country who has actually lifted a dumbbell.
The last time I saw Don Lee was in the 2019 film “The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil” (Yes, I am NOT counting The Eternals) a film that landed in my top 5 best films of the year. It may be too early to say if “The Roundup” will also be added to the list of best films of 2022 but it is definitely a strong contender.
“The Roundup” is a sequel to the 2017 Korean film “The Outlaws” that focus on the criminal underbelly of human smuggling and kidnapping. In the depths of Vietnam, immigrant criminals resort to crimes against tourists to extort people out of money. After the death of the son of a wealthy businessman Kim In-sook (Park Ji-young) hits their radar, a Korean police unit led by Ma Seok-do (Ma Dong-seok) travels to Vietnam to find the culprits.
In their investigation, they discover a violent criminal ring led by the dangerous Kang Hae-sang (Son Seok-koo) who has a knack for stabbing his victims to death. The situation becomes direr when the detectives realize that Kang was stiffed out of millions after killing Kim’s son. Kim hires a group of mercenaries to have Kang killed but Kang is a team of his own and wants revenge. The three sides are on a collision course to disaster in an international crime battle that is about to hit home.
“The Roundup” despite being a sequel is a movie good enough to stand on its own. The film doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the previous movie and does a great job of establishing its characters for new viewers. Don Lee is a powerhouse who hits everyone in the film with the power of 1000 soldiers. Lee beating his opponents into powder makes for some great action and makes you wonder why the villains even bother to challenge him to begin with.
Son Seok-koo is a formidable villain as the vicious Kang who is almost as cold as he is brutal in the matter of his kills and demeanor. Kang is a ruthless antagonist with a psychotic look in his eyes that affirms that everyone is in danger when he is around. The action can be over the top at times but the story is well-paced and keeps the audience one step ahead of the characters, keeping everyone invested in what happens next.
I also admire the fact that Korean films still value the idea of law and order as the film highlights its faith in the justice system, a concept that has long become jaded in the eyes of American audiences and progressive filmmakers.
“The Roundup” has been a smash hit at the Korean box office becoming the #1 film in the region so far this year and it’s easy to see why. The film is playing at Regal theaters in the US for the next week.