Korea’s wildly successful ‘Roundup’ series seeks wider audience at Berlinale

By Thomson Reuters Feb 23, 2024 | 3:32 PM

BERLIN (Reuters) – One of South Korea’s most popular crime action movie series is hoping to make the leap to international success at the Berlin Film Festival on Friday, where its fourth iteration, “The Roundup: Punishment”, will celebrate its world premiere.

The film, which follows the rough-and-tumble detective Ma Seok-do as he takes down an illegal online gambling ring, joins a long list of South Korean films that have made their way to Western audience following the 2019 smash-hit “Parasite”.

“Eternals” and “Train to Busan’s” Don Lee, who plays the detective and gets a storyby credit, told Reuters that there were plans to develop the franchise gradually.

“I’m planning up to the eighth sequel currently,” he said, with the goal being to show the evolution of his character with every case he takes on, to become wiser and more experienced.

“We also want the action to evolve and change little by little in the movies, and you will be able to see that in the fourth sequel,” added Lee.

Heo Myeong-Haeng, who was the film series’ stunt coordinator before turning to directing, said that he felt some pressure but was comforted by the high calibre of the cast and the script.

“It of course contains the same fun and action elements as the previous films. What’s different is that we have new villains, and they have very good chemistry,” he told Reuters.

The Crime City series began with “The Outlaws” in 2017, one of Korea’s highest-grossing R-rated films, followed by “The Roundup” in 2022 and “The Roundup: No Way Out” in 2023.

Actor Kim Moo-Yul, who plays the villain Baek Chang-gi, said that Heo’s background gave him confidence for the action scenes.

“The action was pretty difficult to shoot, but his experience made them easier and everything went really smoothly,” said Kim, who added that he did a lot of physical preparation for the role of an ex-special forces killer.

“I did a lot exercising with a dagger,” he recalled.

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala, Writing by Miranda Murray, Editing by Alex Richardson)