By Jake Watt
3rd September 2022

A sequel to Kang Yoon-sung's 2017 film 'The Outlaws', Lee Sang-yong's 'The Roundup' became the highest-performing South Korean release since the COVID-19 pandemic and the top-grossing film of 2022 in South Korea. It's rather easy to see why – it's a load of fun.

Four years after the events of 'The Outlaws', Detective Ma Seok-do (Ma Dong-seok, 'The Eternals') and Captain Jeon Il-man (Choi Gwi-hwa) head to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to extradite a suspect. This leads them to cross paths with Kang Hae-sang (Son Suk-Ku), a vicious killer who has kidnapped and killed Koreans and several tourists in exchange for ransom money. People are soon being machete'd and slapped silly left, right and centre.


The second installation in the 'Crime City' series (production of the third film titled 'The Roundup: No Way Out', directed by Lee Sang-yong, is currently in progress) follows the same blueprint as the first film. Detective Ma Seok-do (nicknamed the "Beast Cop") is a sardonic wrecking ball of a man with inexplicably borderline superhuman strength, capable of slapping someone's face through a car windscreen. Meanwhile, the villain is singularly evil, wholly irredeemable scum. The two characters wreak a path of destruction through countless criminals waving knives, hatchets, machetes and cleavers until they find one another at the film's climax, whereupon an epic brawl ensues a la 'Godzilla vs. Kong'. It's a simple formula (perhaps executed more smoothly here), but a good one.

The appeal of the film rests heavily on the immense shoulders of man bison Ma Dong-seok, who puts the slap into slapstick.

The appeal of the film rests heavily on the immense shoulders of man bison Ma Dong-seok, who puts the slap into slapstick – he combines excellent comic timing with a doleful expression as he effortlessly disarms knife-wielding goons before body slamming them through the Earth's crust.

In a lot of ways, 'The Roundup' fine-tunes everything audiences are familiar with when it comes to Korean action films, blending crowd-pleasing melodrama, with lots of broad physical comedy and cute little moments... in addition to geysers of blood and people being tortured (by both crooks and cops). The actual action isn't quite as carefully choreographed as you might see in a Hong Kong movie, but it's stark and ferocious. Imagine the darkly amusing and terrifically violent crime dramas of Takeshi Kitano ('Outrage Coda'), but starring slap happy Italian Spaghetti Western icon Bud Spencer and you're pretty close to the overall tone.

If you ever wanted to watch a film where the Incredible Hulk was a detective who solved crimes, I highly recommend seeking out 'The Roundup'.

Looking for more Korean Film Festival in Australia reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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