Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
One of the Best Action Films of the Year
Taking place in both Korea and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 2008, The Roundup begins with the kidnapping of a wealthy Korean tourist named Choi Yong-gi in Vietnam. This leads to Korean detective Ma Seok-do (played by Don Lee/Ma Dong-seok) and his captain Jeon Il-man (Gwi Hwa-choi) heading to Vietnam to investigate. They discover the bodies of at least four Korean tourists and a remorseless individual named Kang Hae-sang (played by Son Sukku/Son Seok-koo) is the prime suspect.
Don Lee has such an electrifying on-screen presence. He’s one of the rare instances of a big guy that is able to execute on-screen fights to dominant perfection and be a solid actor at the same time. With The Roundup, Don Lee contributes to the screenplay for the first time and hopefully it was for his Ma Dong-seok character because you want to see more of him the instant he shows up on-screen.
Ma Seok-do has that Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon or John McClane from Die Hard mentality of causing more damage and hurting more people than is required to bring in a suspect. He is a powerhouse of a man that relies on his brute strength to be a total beast when things get ugly. However, Ma Seok-do is also an intelligent detective that knows how to think things through and execute a well thought out plan.
Son Sukku has a cold and frightening demeanor as Kang Hae-sang. Kang, as well as his men, use knives or axes as their weapon of choice. Kang typically uses a giant meat cleaver to slice and chop up his victims and opponents. Kang is mostly emotionless as blood splatters onto his face and skin and the fact that he’s so fast and can take out so many men on his own is impressive and terrifying. It’s been a long time since a film villain has felt this menacing. The final fight between Kang and Ma on a parked bus in a tunnel is crazy intense.
Don Lee is a Certified, Bone-Breaking Megastar
Even though The Roundup is technically a sequel to the 2017 film The Outlaws, The Roundup can still be viewed as a standalone feature film. Mostly classified as a South Korean crime action film, The Roundup has some laugh out loud humor (“He’s got too many ears. I can take one of them.”) and more blood than the average action film. Every action scene is hard hitting, fast paced, and almost always ends in a ton of bloodshed. There’s also a ton of chemistry amongst the main cast and a homicidal villain that feels like an actual threat. The Roundup is this incredibly well rounded action film that is consistently firing on all cylinders.
An extended car chase in The Roundup has some of the most unique and nerve racking perspectives you’ve ever seen utilized in an action film. It also seems as though someone is going through a windshield, either head or torso first, on at least two occasions in the film. The Roundup takes your breath away with how brutal it can be at times, but it’s also paced so well with a story you actually care about and characters that don’t seem wasted to deliver 100 exhilarating minutes of pure, nonstop, ass-kicking entertainment.
Since The Roundup is a South Korean film, it feels like it’s able to break away from whatever expectations you may have for an American made action blockbuster. It may be an action and a crime film, but it also adds elements of drama and is borderline horror at times with how extreme some of the action sequences are. Don Lee has undeniable magnetic charisma and is overflowing with unbelievable talent. He’s a certified, bone-breaking megastar. The Roundup is a savagely captivating action extravaganza with lightning fast action and brilliant performances.
© 2022 Chris Sawin