The Roundup: No Way Out movie review (2023)

In “The Roundup,” Ma Seok-do, Lee’s barrel-chested renegade cop, pummels his way through another pack of vicious baddies. A new sequel, “The Roundup: No Way Out,” delivers more episodic thrills, though, as in “The Roundup,” any scene without Lee feels like a waste of time. Both “The Roundup” movies are pretty generic, beyond an adequate serving of slapstick-y violence, while “The Outlaws” features a compelling villain and a well-used ensemble cast. “The Roundup: No Way Out” does not improve on the slightly refined formula of “The Roundup,” but it goes down a little smoother and is notably slicker.

Only Lee, a scene-stealing character actor, could make you want to root for a loutish character like Ma. Ma turns out villains by snapping their wrists, launching them across the room (often literally), or body-slamming them into doors, desks, windows, and what have you. He doesn’t waste time explaining himself, not to his peers, eyewitnesses, informants, or suspects that he shakes down. Ma winces and sighs easily because only he’s strong enough to punch through all that pesky police procedural red tape. In “The Roundup: No Way Out,” the Japanese yakuza send a merciless hitman, Ricky (Munetaka Aoki), to collect a stolen shipment of Hiper, an addictive new club drug, from the White Shark Clan, their thieving Korean partners.

Soon, Ma discovers the real reason why nobody else has stopped the sale of Hiper in Cheongdam: the White Shark Clan has not only been shielded, but actively helped by corrupt cop Joo Song-chul (Lee Jun-hyuk), who beats a fellow officer to death with a crowbar in his first scene, and is only identified as a policeman about 30 minutes later. That sort of asked-and-answered twist speaks to the effects-driven nature of these movies, which depend on simple summer movie pleasures, like physical comedy routines and/or one-sided fist fights that make Don Lee look like a beefy distant cousin of both Joe Don Baker and One Punch Man.