“The Beast Cop is Back” proclaims the posters for The Roundup. And if you’re wondering who the Beast Cop is, where he went or if this is another sequel to WolfCop, we’re talking about Ma Seok-do (Ma Dong-seok aka Don Lee, Train to Busan, Ashfall). And this is a sequel, to 2017’s The Outlaws, don’t worry, it has a standalone plot but after seeing this you’ll probably want to go back and watch it anyway.
Ma Seok-do and his captain Jeon Il-man (Gwi-hwa Choi, The Wailing, Runway Cop) have been sent to Ho Chi Minh City to pick up a suspect for extradition. That would seem a simple assignment, right? There’s just one question. Why would a fugitive in a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Korea turn himself in?
But it turns out someone else is looking for him as well, Kang (Son Sukku, Hit-and-Run Squad, Nothing Serious) a serial killer preying on Korean tourists and kidnapping businessmen to support his murder habit. It isn’t long before Ma and Jeon are defying their superiors and the Vietnamese authorities in order to bring Kang in. And once again they’re not the only ones looking for him. It seems his last victim came from a mob-connected family and his father (Nam Mun-cheol, RV: Resurrected Victims, Black Money) has dispatched a team of enforcers to dispatch Kang.
It all ends up back in Korea as Kang goes after the mob boss who sent the hitmen after him and the police see a chance to take out both of them at once. Cue a bloody fight in an elevator, a car chase across Seoul and other assorted mayhem on the way to The Roundup’s final showdown.
Right from the start when we see Ma trying to break up a hostage situation by sneaking up on the knife-wielding kidnapper only to knock over some shelves and give himself away you know The Roundup isn’t a typical action film. Ma has a talent for physical comedy which he uses to good effect to make his character more likable than your typical badass cop.
That however also creates my biggest problem with The Roundup. Plenty of films feature cops using questionable tactics to get information out of suspects, it’s part of the genre and audiences accept it. Here however beating information out of someone in cuffs is played for laughs and that didn’t sit well with me. Korean audiences may be cool with it, but I suspect I won’t be the only one to have issues with it outside of its home country.
Beyond that, though there really isn’t much to complain about except that they’ve made the lead a bit too strong and invincible though that’s a common problem with oversized actors be it Ma Dong-seok, Stallone or Schwarzenegger. That is balanced off to a large degree by making Kang every bit as lethal. Son Sukko also manages to be quite chilling during his dialogue scenes, conveying the kind of evil that makes people believe in devils and demons.
The Roundup also delivers in the action department with plenty of brawling by both the hero and villain including a great scene where Kang takes on a hit squad sent after him. In some ways, Kang gets the best of the film’s fight scenes as they’re played straight and quite viciously. Much of the gore is kept just off-screen, but the sound effects are well done and quite effective.
Ma’s scenes on the other hand frequently go for comic effect as he sends people flying across rooms and through walls with a single punch. You could almost paint him green and pass him off as The Hulk, which isn’t such a stretch as he’s already played Gilgamesh in the MCU film The Eternals.
Surprisingly The Roundup is only the second film directed by Sang-yong Lee, the other being 4th Period Mystery back in 2009. It’s also his first writing credit which he shares with his star and another first-time writer Min-Seong Kim. It’s an impressive show of potential and hopefully, he’ll be brought back for the inevitable third film in the series.