By Kim Boram
SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) -- The 2017 crime action comedy "The Outlaws" depends on unstoppable force and high energy of robust police officer Ma Seok-do, played by Ma Dong-seok, also known as Don Lee, who simply bulldozes all the outlaws, not caring about using illegal means or hurting the villains.
The film was the biggest sleeper hit that year, charming 6.9 million Korean moviegoers in the Chuseok holiday season. It outnumbered the star-studded historical political film "The Fortress," one of the highly anticipated films of the year. Directed by "Squid Game" creator Hwang Dong-hyuk, it sold only 3.8 million tickets.
Four years after the gang warfare in southwestern Seoul featured in the "The Outlaws," the sequel starts with a familiar but new episode that captures muscular detective Seok-do's distinctive presence in his fight against criminals with a lethal fist and no leniency.
Assigned to bring back a Korean runaway criminal from Vietnam, Seok-do and his boss fly to the Southeast Asian country without taking the matter too seriously.
But Seok-do feels something is wrong there and finds out that a merciless villain, named Kang Hae-sang (Son Seok-koo), has been kidnapping and murdering Korean tourists and businessmen for money.
In Vietnam, the duo fails to catch Hae-sang, who kills the only son of a Korean business tycoon. They return to Korea in pursuit of the killer after he smuggles himself into the country to blackmail the father.
Despite Seok-do's hot pursuit back in Korea, Hae-sang wriggles out of the police's grasp, continuing his kidnapping and murder spree in Seok-do's neck of the woods.
"The Roundup" follows a simple linear plot to the 2017 film and familiar characters -- the violent clampdown on ruthless gangsters by the incomparably powerful Seok-do. The second film, however, has stronger on-screen chemistry between Ma and his team members, who build a stronger sense of humor and funny light relief despite brutally violent scenes.
Well-tuned action set pieces, especially thrilling fist fights led by Ma, catch the eyes of viewers who are anticipating Ma's realistic crack downs on gangsters and the repetition of slapstick and comical lines from "The Outlaws."
Ma's presence looks bigger than in the first installment as a hero of the universe who knocks down all opposition no matter how strong they are and brings peace back to society. His tough, violent though likable character helps make the narrative more plausible and entertaining.
Actor Son portrayed the psychopath criminal with his gruesome face, dark eyes and sardonic smile, and created a new implacable villain following Jang Chen, a cold-blooded Chinese gang leader played by singer-turned-actor Yoon Kye-sang, who showed a strong presence in "The Outlaws."
But even more over-the-top action sequences and Seok-do's seemingly unstoppable power weaken the narrative's suspense and nail-biting thrills that stood out in the 2017 movie.
And excessive violent and cruel scenes, while cleverly hidden from the camera, will still likely make more squeamish viewers imagine large-scale bloodshed from the sound effects alone and feel uncomfortable throughout the 106-minute film.
"The Roundup" will hit local screens next Wednesday.