7th London East Asia Film Festival: The Roundup Review
When The Outlaws, written and directed by Kang Yoon-sung, came out in 2017, the film became the third highest-grossing film of that year in South Korea. The production had enough thrills and suspense to satisfy even the most jaded sensation-seekers. It took a few years before the second instalment, The Roundup, was released onto the big screen. Directed by Lee Sang-yong and co-written with the help of Kim Min-seong and Ma Dong-seok, the film was loosely based on a few kidnapping incidents that occurred in the Philippines between 2008 and 2012.
A few years after Detective Ma Seok-do (Ma Dong-seok) completed the sweeping operation in Garibong-dong, his life as a “heroic” police officer carries on. Detective Ma is often prone to using his brawn rather than common sense, and he leaves with his team for Vietnam to extradite Yoo Jong-hoon, a wealthy and slightly shady “businessman”. Ma doesn’t manage to bring the man back to Seoul, as Yoo is soon murdered by Kang Hae-sang (a stunning performance by Son Seok-koo), a criminal with psychopathic tendencies. It is now Ma’s job to capture the killer and bring him to justice.
Detective Ma is a spontaneous perfectionist, and his drive for justice causes him to conduct an investigation in a place where he has no jurisdiction – he strikes first, and asks for permission later. In addition, his impeccable investigative tactics always end up becoming advantageous in the most unpredictable times. Along with his partner, Captain Jeon Il-man (Choi Gwi-hwa), an arrogant and excessively talkative person, they attempt to track Kang while enduring each other’s clashing personalities.
Ma Dong-seok is superb as the defiant detective Ma Seok-do, who is well past his youthful years but is still able to swing a few powerful punches. The comic potential of Ma Dong-seok, as is seen in his actions and dialogue, creates a charming atmosphere and strengthens his interactions with other characters. The entire construction of The Roundup is well-crafted and shows Lee Sang-yong’s ability to translate a good script into an excellent film – the production never loses its pace and keeps its viewers on the edge of their seats.
The film settings are well-orchestrated by the production team. The simplicity of the director’s storytelling, with its emphasis on demonstrating the abilities of the cast in the film’s action scenes, is simply superb. Although Lee depends heavily on Ma Dong-seok’s on-screen charisma, the layers of narrative enhance the action itself, keeping the viewers engaged throughout the film.
Lee’s newest work has already become a blockbuster hit in his native country of South Korea. The Roundup, like The Outlaws, proves that a great action/thriller film requires a combination of an engaging script and endearing characters to successfully carry the narrative. And with the third film, The Roundup: No Way Out, being released next year, viewers can only expect more action from Ma Seok-do and his squad.
Written by Maggie Gogler