The first time I saw Ma Dong-seok in Train to Busan (2016), I was in awe. He reminded me of Sammo Hung, who I had grown up watching in Jackie Chan movies: a big guy moving in ways that seem to defy physics, and being comedic while still kicking everyone’s butt. That’s why I picked The Roundup (2022) in my Fantasia International Film Festival preview, and it was the first film I watched for the festival this year.
In Vietnam, many expatriate thugs are defrauding Korean tourists and investors. However, one of the main suspects has reached out with the intent to turn himself in for immediate repatriation. Officer Ma Seok-do (Ma Dong-seok) and Captain Jong go to meet the accused in Ho Chi Minh City and discover that a deranged gangster, Kang Hae-sang (Sukku Son), is using cruel and gruesome methods to terrorize others- even his fellow thugs. Defying protocol, Ma seeks to put a stop to Kang at all costs.
The draw of Ma Dong-seok was well placed. He has an action-star presence that is undeniable. You may not agree with his type of police work – breaking all protocol to solve the case – but Detective Ma’s charisma and focus on justice seem to make his character one you want to root for. His performance in this role is well suited, and whenever he shows up to a group of “thugs” the audience has no difficulty believing the fear his presence brings. Ma isn’t a costumed superhero, though Dong-seok did play one in the Eternals (2021) – he is pretty close to being one.
Director Sang-yong Lee does a solid job with the action scenes. I thought there were a few moments in a couple of the fights where the coverage was a bit too much, and you really couldn’t get a grip of where things were. However, whenever Dong-seok is fighting, the camera seems to step back and let us see how hard this man can hit. The punches all feel legit, with each blow landing with such force it’s as if you can feel it.
The Roundup is a solid action movie with a decent enough story. It is mostly a straightforward cop movie with a sadistic villain that justifies the excessive tactics that Detective Ma uses to catch him. Of course, this idea may seem problematic to some, but it is a pretty standard set-up for this kind of movie. The Roundup earns the Decent Watch rating.