It’s safe to describe Ronald Bronstein as the Safdie Brothers’ secret weapon.
Joshua A. Guttman
Don Lee is badass
Ever since I first saw Don Lee in Train to Busan, I’ve followed his career like a hawk. In an era of more character-oriented action films, he feels like a throwback to larger-than-life action heroes of the 80s. Films like The Champion and The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil perfectly showcase how Don Lee’s comic timing, size, and charisma make him the perfect action hero, potentially up there with Arnold Schwartzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, or Jason Statham. American audiences more familiar with Don Lee as Gilgamesh in The Eternals would have fun checking out his filmography, and today’s film may be a solid place to start. With his latest film The Roundup, Don Lee seems well on his way to starting his own action franchise.
A sequel to 2017’s The Outlaws, The Roundup, directed by Lee Sang-yong, follows Detective Ma (Don Lee) as he hunts a gang of kidnappers who moved their operation from South Korea to Vietnam. He teams up with his Captain Jeon Il-man (Choi Guy-hwa) and heads to Vietnam to hunt the kidnappers, led by the devious and deadly Kang Hae-sang (Son Sukku). Detective Ma’s nickname is “The Beast Cop,” and Don Lee immediately gives that monicker weight. Every action scene perfectly depicts Detective Ma as a force to be reckoned with. Don Lee uses his size and strength effortlessly, making even the most minimal moves feel excruciatingly painful. You can feel the character’s history through his physicality, but the charm exuded by Don Lee, coupled with a sprinkling of humor, makes the character fun and feel fleshed out.
While the film is a sequel, it does work as a stand-alone film, in the same vein as the Dirty Harry franchise. The film takes a lot of influence from Dirty Harry with its characterization and usage of vigilante cop tropes. Because of this, some may find the story predictable, but the script is well executed in terms of the direction and pacing, carried by strong performances, so I still had fun. The excursion to Vietnam also added an interesting culture clash element to help break up the formula. The action scenes are brutal and intensely choreographed with an effective combination of brawls and martial arts, primarily relying on the brawls. For as good as Don Lee is, Son Sukku is memorably terrifying as Kang Hae-sang. He’s sly, violent, and the direct viciousness of his fight scenes encapsulates him perfectly.
The Roundup is a a fun popcorn flick filled with charismatic performances and exciting action set pieces, all carried by the larger-than-life Don Lee. It’s an excellent introduction to Don Lee, and I highly recommend scouring his filmography for even more gems. While you don’t need to watch The Outlaws first, I also recommend that film too, as it’s a similarly fun film. A third film in the franchise is already in production, and I’m excited to see more Detective Ma films in the U.S.
The Roundup is now playing on VOD
The first film in the franchise, The Outlaws, is available to stream on TubiTV here.
David Leitch has been killing it as an action director.
The New York Asian Film Festival is easily one of my favorite film festivals in New York
Cop movies are trepidatious at the moment.
“What camera would you use to capture a UFO?”
Exclusive: Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, David Simon, and Nina Noble Talk ‘The Wire’ 20th Anniversary
This month we see The Wire celebrate its 20th anniversary.
The critically acclaimed crime drama from David Simon has secured a solid legacy in television history. Tracking the work of the Baltimore Police Department through the lens of multiple Baltimore institutions, the series masterly demonstrated how ingrained corruption could be in a city. Like many political and social issues, the series addressed how interconnected these flawed institutions are, making these challenges harder to untangle. By integrating ex-cops, reporters, and teachers into the creative process, The Wire maintains a realism and worldliness that makes the series as compelling today as it was when it first came out.
I first spoke with creator David Simon and executive producer Nina Noble about how the issues The Wire addresses relate to current problems in Baltimore. We discussed Simon’s recent mini-series, We Own This City, which builds on The Wire and contemporary Baltimore politics, mainly how the past failings of the BPD and city government result in today’s issues. We further discussed what institutions David Simon would want to address if he were to tackle the show again.
I then talked with Dominic West (Det. Jimmy McNulty) and Wendell Pierce (Det. William’ Bunk’ Moreland), where we dived into their characters’ flawed relatability and appeal. We discussed The Wire’s legacy within the cop show genre and the necessity of showing the moral ambiguity of the job and these types of characters. We also reinforce that Det. Bunk is indeed badass and good police.
The Wire is available to own on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital and to stream on HBO Max.
You can find Briana Boateng’s excellent interview with Clarke Peters, Jim True-Frost, and Lance Reddick here.
As we have reached the end of the Tribeca Film Festival, I wanted to highlight a few films that stood out to me within the programming.
1998’s Velvet Goldmine celebrated it’s 4K re-release at the Tribeca Film Festival