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The Roundup: No Way Out - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2023

Action, Crime, Comedy

Lee Sang-yong

Ma Dong-seok
Lee Joon-hyuk
Kim Min-jae
Munetaka Aoki
Lee Beom-soo
Lee Ji-hoon
Kim Yoon-sung
Kim Do-geon

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The Roundup: No Way Out

The Roundup: No Way Out - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Detective Ma Seok-do (Ma Dong-seok) is running late again, and naturally that's when some gangsters decide to stop all traffic. But it's not something he couldn't quickly settle with his fists this time too. When he is called to a crime scene where a woman fell out of a window, though, he has no clue that this is just the beginning of a big case. The woman was under the influence of the drug Hiper, a super drug that is currently used in many clubs and is extremely addictive. Apparently, the drug originally came from Japan, but at the moment it is manufactured in Korea and distributed there through a middleman. That man is Joo Seong-cheol (Lee Joon-hyuk), who is extremely ruthless and wants to sell his drugs to the triads on a big scale. However, the yakuza get wind of the fact that Joo wants to boot them out, and they send the killer Ricky (Munetaka Aoki) to secure the drugs. Unfortunately, one of Joo's men panics and disappears with the drugs. He and Ricky as well as Detective Ma are now trying to find those drugs. Soon, the trail leads Ma to the head of another police station's anti-drug unit. Who is, in fact, Joo. Detective Ma suspects that something is fishy about the cop and so a violent confrontation there seems to be in the making.

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Review: When I got my hands on another part of the film series now called "The Roundup" with Ma Dong-Seok in his signature role, I thought I was seeing things. Not even one year earlier, "The Roundup" came out. After it became clear that there would be two more installments because of the movie's success, the people involved must have taken things very seriously and got to work right away. But what can you expect from this flick? Well, exactly what you got in the first two movies. If you can come to terms with that (and most people will want to see the picture exactly just because of Ma and his "one-ton punch"), you'll have a lot of fun here, as the movie simply offers more of the tried and proven. Of course, this is also a point of criticism that should not be neglected, since you somehow get the feeling of being presented a movie with a well-known formula.

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The introduction, for example, gives you that feeling of déjà vu. The camera follows Ma from behind as he approaches some gangsters who are making a fuss. Then there are a few resounding slaps. All the while, the focus lies on not making the whole thing look like a "Bud Spencer and Terence Hill" movie, because most enemies are on the ground after just one punch, or simply thrown into the next closet - but thankfully the choreography is always well-done and due to some subtle visual tricks, good sound effects, and of course Ma Dong-Seok's impressive stature, there is a lot of power in the whole thing. So, you really can't complain when it comes to the action. As always, Ma is almost invincible and only stumbles a bit or takes some punches himself when he comes across some of the bosses. Luckily, that's when the fights are a bit longer as well.

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So, thumbs up for the action. Another driving force of the film series is its humor. It thrives on the chemistry between the characters and the natural confusion during most scenes. Kim Min-jae ("The Devil's Deal") plays the sidekick, but Ma's superiors are also found at every turn, although the director has a lot of fun with only letting them show up when Ma has already smashed everything to pieces. So, there is also a little self-irony in addition to the humor, which basically relies on comedy of the situation. Once again, I was impressed by the fact that the movie never slips into the realm of slapstick. Which is something very rare. But maybe this is also due to the fact that the flick can also be quite violent. As is typical for the series, the antagonist, played by Lee Joon-hyuk ("No Mercy"), is portrayed as extremely ruthless. Moreover, there are a few other cold-blooded killers played for example by Munetaka Aoki, who also embodied Sanosuke in the "Rurouni Kenshin"-series.

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While it was Vietnam in the predecessor and Chinese gangsters in the first installment that provided a special touch, this time, it is the yakuza. Since there are different parties and everyone is deceiving everyone, "No Way Out" is also able to keep things going story-wise. And that's all you need, as you won't find a complex story in flicks like this anyway. With its various characters - some of the informants unfortunately only seem like replicas of one and the same original - there is always a little casual conversation before Ricky, for example, slaughters his opponents in the next moment. By the way, it's interesting that the latest installment looks a lot more modern (finally there are also smart phones added), since the story takes place in 2015. The first part "The Outlaws" was set in 2004 and the next one in 2008. And at the end of this one, another three year jump into the future is foreshadowed.

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But even if the sequel was set in 2045, filmmakers would probably not dare to turn away from the successful formula. "No Way Out" lacks some of the special scenes of its predecessors, and the villain isn't quite as intimidating either, just pretty standard. But the third part somehow found its rhythm and you notice a certain kind of self-confidence. In addition, the mixture of hard-hitting action and lighthearted comedy is a lot more balanced this time. Which is why the movie is simply fun, maybe exactly because of its simplicity. No spectacular chases, of which 90 percent are usually computer-generated anyway, just a detective who knows how to do his job, and every now and then, if need be, cleans up with his fists, which are basically anvils. Popcorn entertainment that simply hits the right notes, assuming you're looking for that kind of light entertainment.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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