By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) -- Action star Ma Dong-seok is back for the action comedy franchise "The Roundup: No Way Out," with stronger and faster punches and the same old goofy jokes.
The third installment after "The Outlaws (2017)" and "The Roundup" (2022), No. 1 at the box office last year with over 12.7 million admissions, follows the tried-and-tested formula of the previous films that revolve around hunky cop Ma Seok-do.
Ma is a tough, no-nonsense detective who favors the direct approach when dealing with bad guys but at times shows a soft side, making him a likable character.
In "No Way Out," Ma is promoted to a police detective at the Regional Investigation Unit, which investigates drug-related crimes as a new and dangerous drug is circulating around local clubs.
Ma and his colleagues discover that Japanese gangsters have smuggled the drugs into the nation and a hidden group was involved in the distribution.
Joo Seong-cheol (played by Lee Joon-hyuk) is a mysterious drug kingpin, and a Japanese gangster named Riki (played by Aoki Munetaka) arrives in Seoul to hunt down his former colleague who stole his yakuza boss' drugs.
Unlike the previous stories that featured a main antagonist, two villains in the story confront each other and then make a deal to complicate Ma's investigation.
Above all, the key ingredient is Ma's performance that blends in well with the action comedy genre.
The big muscular man shows more complicated fight choreography with combinations of mega punches and multiple flurries. Ma's fist sends bad guys flying through walls and destroys a locked door and a safe.
Director Lee Sang-young expands the film's cinematic universe with two distinctive antagonists, but it scatters attention as a result, making it feel like Ma's one-man show.
Like its predecessors, it is a movie for those who want a good mix of action and humor, and love Ma's character.
It has been pre-sold to 158 countries across the world, according to its distributor, A.B.O. Entertainment.
"The Roundup: No Way Out" hits local theaters May 31.