Fists fly in the new cop caper starring TRAIN TO BUSAN’s Don Lee (Ma Dong-Seok)
Sporting the tagline “The Beast Cop is back!”, one might understandably misread at a glance that The Roundup (범죄도시2, literally “Crime City 2”) is a followup to the 1998 Hong Kong hit Beast Cops.
But the new film, which stars the singular, tanklike Ma Dong-Seok (Train to Busan, The Eternals), aka Don Lee, is actually a sequel to his Korean film The Outlaws from 2017.
For interested viewers who may not have caught that first outing, this all begs the question of whether they need have seen the original in order to enjoy this thrilling romp. It seems probable that the localized standalone title is intended to deemphasize the film’s sequel status in order to avoid limiting its audience. Thankfully, the Round-up is an absolute blast — as confirmed by its smash hit status in Korea — and you need not know the characters’ history in order to follow or enjoy it.
The film deals loosely with a phenomenon of Korean fugitives who flee to neighboring countries to escape justice, continuing their criminal ways in their new environs, and often specifically preying on Korean travelers.
A high profile murder and ransom case brings loose cannon Detective Ma (Ma Dong-seok) and his more straitlaced Captain Jeon Il-Man (Choi Guy-hwa) to Vietnam to investigate in cooperation with the Vietnamese government, though it turns out the local law enforcement isn’t particularly cordial or helpful to the outsiders.
So Detective Ma does what he does best (well, presumably. I haven’t seen the first movie but you pick up his vibe straightaway). He throws out the book and hits the streets, roughing up thugs, searching without warrants, and making a lot of headway with his unorthodox methods.
In this respect the vibe is similar to another favorite Korean cop action-comedy, Public Enemy. Ma’s heavy-handed methods are both played up for laughs and shown to be very effective — an illegal search yields a mass grave where several missing travelers were hastily disposed. At the same time, he doesn’t get a pass, and his abuses of power (rightly) end up getting him in hot water with his Vietnamese hosts.
The rough-edged policing may come off as a little tone-deaf here in the US where police brutality and abuse present a very real and ongoing concern, but taken in the spirit that it’s offered (good guys bending the rules a little to fight the bad guys), it’s nonetheless enjoyable. Detective Ma’s huge arms are capable of delivering massive blows that can obliterating force, and hard-driving rock music starts playing whenever it’s ass-kicking time.
Without getting too mired in the plot details, the action returns to Korea where the killer and a couple of his top henchmen engage in a dangerous campaign to collect a ransom and maybe murder another target or two.
If you enjoy the Lethal Weapon films, this will be right up your alley. As a socio-political document, The Roundup is pretty squiffy. But as an engine of entertainment, it absolutely delivers on excitement with sly, admittedly mean-spirited comedy and awesome action that includes an apartment brawl reminiscent of The Raid and thrilling chase sequences, both vehicular and on foot.
The Roundup recently played US theaters in limited capacity through Capelight Pictures. This is one you’ll want to keep an eye out for — I expect we should be getting a VOD or home video announcement soon.
Update: Now available on Apple/iTunes!