Ma Dong-seok! Ma Dong-seok!
Thus goeth the chant on the way to Koreatown to see The Roundup, the latest Ma Dong-seok cop action flick. We like Mr. Ma. He’s got charisma. So the fact that this is a sequel to 2017’s The Outlaws (“based on a true story!”) didn’t bother us even though none of us have seen that older film. You can tell it’s a sequel, though, in the sense that there are many characters you’re sort of supposed to know to go along with the new characters who are central to the current story.
But it’s kind of nice in this regard: The people from the previous film feel like fleshed out characters even if you haven’t seen the first flick. They have their traits and interests and goals, and it’s a good reminder that you don’t need a lot of screen time to build a character.
The story is about Korean tourists in Vietnam being kidnapped and held for ransom and/or murdered. Ma plays Ma Seok-do (which I think would be like Jean-Claude van Damme playing a character called Claude Jack Van Damme, but what do I know?) a loose cannon cop who doesn’t respect international borders when it comes to justice.
I’m not really exaggerating here. Ma has a bad habit of making his own people look bad in the papers (at least according to his boss) and to get rid of him for a while, sends him to do an extradition in a foreign country. Classic. It reminds me of a blend of American films from the ’50s to the ’80s, with a sincere patriotism, good-natured enthusiasm and a genuine good-vs-evil narrative. I do find the comical treatment of police brutality grating, as I have in American films. On the other hand, I liked the whole “Hey, we’re supposed to bring justice, why does it matter what country we’re in?” ethos.
The supporting cast is strong, from the genuinely evil villain to the wacky comic-relief—a low-level grifter whose schemes are constantly being thwarted by Ma, but who ends up saving the day, even if unintentionally. There is that whole kind-of, “Sure, there are petty thieves and con-men, but when you’re up against real evil, even they’ll be on your side” trope which is nice.
Good action. Nice twist at the end which is explained after the fact. I’d sorta figured it out but the explanation was helpful. Otherwise you could walk away thinking Ma was just magic and had successfully guessed where the bad guy would be.
The Flower came with us for this one. Ma Dong-seok may be the only contemporary movie star* she’s ever gone to see a movie because he was in it. She even toyed with going to see The Eternals, as someone who hasn’t seen a marvel movie since 2015, but we both figured there wasn’t going to be enough Ma to make it worth our whiles.
*Ma Dong-seok and Clint Eastwood. Even though he’s barely contemporary, she’s been a fan of his since and because of Gran Torino, so he counts.