April 12, 2024

THE ROUNDUP: NO WAY OUT: Some Things Never Get Old

2023 / 101 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

Some things never get old…date night at Starbucks with my wife, breakfast food for dinner, the Cowboys choking during the playoffs…

…and Don Lee pummeling bad guys into submission. 

The Roundup: No Way Out is the third film of a franchise (with a fourth on the way) featuring Lee as Ma Seok-do, a tough, burly detective whose most formidable skill is beating the shit out of people. I still haven’t seen the first film, The Outlaws, which isn’t available on physical media in the U.S., but 2022’s The Roundup was among the best action films of that year, a deft combination of action and comedy anchored by Lee’s terrific performance (and he’s a lot more agile than his heftiness would suggest). Best of all, watching the first film wasn’t required to enjoy this one.

If you haven’t seen The Roundup, it’s widely available and definitely worth seeking out. But if you have, No Way Out is just as entertaining, with Lee returning to take on a bevy of bad guys while his subordinates try to keep up. This time, a crew of corrupt cops led by Joo Sung-cheol (Lee Joon-hyuk) is trying to sell 20 kilos of a new drug called Hiper to a Chinese triad, which he stole from a vicious Yakuza organization. Following an arrest by Lee and his team, the package is stolen yet again. Now everyone is looking for it…the good cops, the bad cops and the Yakuza boss’ most ruthless assassin, Ricky (Munetaka Aoki). 

Some fashion choices are punchworthy.
The particulars of the plot are more intricate than that, perhaps overly so. But while the story is interesting, it ultimately takes a backseat to the action and characters. Lee continues to make Ma an engaging, atypical action hero. There’s no finesse in his methods, mainly just bluster and brute force, both of which are served up in sequences that are both rousing and funny. But he’s not the whole show here. Like The Roundup, he’s pitted against formidable antagonists, while his allies - willingly assisting him or not - are engaging as either beleaguered straight-men or comic relief.  

Other than a final scene which apparently sets-up the next film, The Roundup: No Way Out presents a self-contained story. Like The Roundup, the only connecting thread is the protagonist’s punishing approach to police procedure, which never gets old. As long as Don Lee is willing and able to keep dispensing justice with his fists (and no guns!), this is one franchise that probably won’t wear out its welcome.

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