The Roundup: Punishment

Italian Premiere | In Competition 


In the past few years, the big fists of Detective Ma Seok-do have become one of the most reliable things in Korean cinema. With The Roundup franchise now reaching its fourth iteration (after 2017’s The Outlaws, 2022’s The Roundup, and 2023’s The Roundup: No Way Out), actor/producer Don Lee – aka Ma Dong-seok – has returned with another highly entertaining stroll through the world of crimefighting. He doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, either – apparently, four more sequels are already in development.

There are some things audiences can always look forward to in a Roundup movie. The story will be based very loosely on a real-life crime case, though it won’t weigh things down by sticking to the facts. Detective Ma will crack a few groan-inducing dad jokes, and get confused if anyone hands him a piece of new technology. The bad guys will be truly despicable, and will cause much suffering to decent, ordinary people. Then sooner or later, they will look up and Detective Ma will be standing in front of them, and he will make them pay.

In The Roundup: Punishment, the crime relates to online gambling. We are introduced early on to Baek (Kim Moo-yul), who is a rising star in the online gambling scene, thanks mostly to his tactic of physically attacking and laying waste to his competitors.

Detective Ma’s team Metro Investigations first learns of this lucrative business – which is located offshore, in the Philippines – when a young computer programmer is killed trying to escape Baek’s particular brand of forced labor.

But Baek’s not the only bad guy in this racket. Sitting atop the business is the super-rich, so-called “genius” tech entrepreneur Chang (Lee Dong-hwi), who has already raked in millions, and is now looking to launch his own rigged cryptocurrency that will make him even richer. Obsessed with his own self-worth, he has little time for other people’s needs or opinions (or respect for their lives), which inevitably leads to tension with the ambitious Baek. Which of these two is the worse criminal may depend on one’s perspective, but both more than deserve what’s coming to them.

The Roundup: Punishment is directed by Heo Myeong-haeng, who has years of experience as a stunt coordinator, but is just now stepping behind the camera. He also directed the recent Netflix feature Badland Hunters, but it’s with this Roundup film that he is drawing particular praise, for its streamlined storytelling, energetic pacing and impactful, satisfying fight scenes. There’s a particular rhythm to a Don Lee action scene, with the frenetic energy of the bad guy interspersed with the heavy, bone-crunching thunk of Detective Ma’s fist. Director Heo balances this perfectly, delivering what may well be the most dynamic and entertaining Roundup film yet.

Darcy Paquet
Film director: HEO Myeong-haeng
Year: 2024
Running time: 109'
Country: South Korea
27/04 - 9:30 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
27-04-2024 21:30 27-04-2024 23:19Europe/Rome The Roundup: Punishment Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine