Monday, May 23, 2022

Don Lee in The Roundup

A cop like Ma Seok-do does not need to carry a gun, because just look at him. It is just as well, since he is not supposed to pack any heat while in Vietnam. According to local law, he is not supposed to be chasing any criminals there either, but the “Beast Cop” from The Outlaws is always going to do what he does best. A ruthless band of kidnappers preying on Korean tourists is about to feel some pain in Lee Sang-yong’s The Roundup (a.k.a. The Outlaws 2), which is now playing in New York.

While technically a sequel,
Roundup easily stands on its own. For fans of the previous film, it looks like Ma’s knees are holding up better now, but he is still just as huge. After taking down the Garibong-dong street gang, he has earned a bit of slack, even when his beat-downs make frontpage news. However, it might be convenient for the top brass to send him to Vietnam to escort a criminal who turned himself in at the consulate, while the controversy blows over.

Of course, Ma has to wonder why a crook would voluntarily surrender himself in a country without extradition. Fortunately, Ma has a knack for asking questions. It turns out the thug is hiding from Kang Hae-sang, the leader of a vicious abduction ring, who always killed his victims after receiving their ransom. His latest abductee was the son of a mobbed-up, usurious finance chairman, who did not take kindly to Kang’s methods. To find Kang, Ma can simply follow the dead bodies of mercs hired to kill him.

Once again, Don Lee (also billed as Ma Dong-seok) demonstrates massive screen charisma as Det. Ma. He is big, but he has a charming facility for humor—honestly, even more so than Schwarzenegger in his prime. Several times, Ma literally punches bad guys through walls and it always looks totally believable.

Son Seok-koo is quietly creepy as Kang, in a way that works. Ma is so larger than life, it makes sense for his antagonist to be such a snake-like polar-opposite. Choi Gwi-hwa nicely compliments Ma as Captain Jeon Il-man, mining his superciliousness for laughs, without descending into Fraser Crane shtick. Park Ji-young is also terrific as Kim In-sook, the dodgy financial tycoon’s wife, a seemingly small role, with outsized impact.

Roundup is all about Det. Ma’s two-fisted justice—and it is the best showcase yet for Lee/Ma. Each fight scene is a blast of fun. For the record, the film pointedly depicts the widespread corruption and officious bureaucracy of contemporary Vietnam (which adds an interesting wrinkle), but Ma overshadows everyone and everything. Enthusiastically recommended for action fans, The Roundup is now playing in New York, at the AMC Empire.