Most of us are familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU. And now, it seems like Korean superstar Ma Dong-seok — last seen as an Asian superhero in the 2021 Marvel movie Eternals — also has plans to create his own “MCU”.
That will be “Ma’s Cinematic Universe” — a South Korean film series that started with the action hit The Outlaws in 2017. Its sequel The Roundup will be released in Singapore on May 26.
Building Ma’s Cinematic Universe
Dong-seok — also known by his English name Don Lee — attended a global press conference last week to promote The Roundup.
Revealing his big plans, the 51-year-old said through translators: “Even before writing the script for the first movie, I already had eight stories in mind and was thinking it would be good if we could turn this into a franchise.”
“Now, it’s an expanded cinematic universe from the first instalment of the series The Outlaws. The crime has become more vicious and we also have a new villain.”
Director Lee Sang-yong added: “Although the cinematic universe has been expanded, you (the viewers) will be able to see the same comical touch, fun and action in The Roundup but in a more upgraded version.”
The Outlaws tells the story of Ma Suk-do (played by Dong-seok), a detective who often wields his fists to maintain the peace in his city. His life becomes more interesting when the brash and brutally violent loanshark Jang Chen (Yoon Kye-sang) acquires more power to threaten gangsters and police officers alike.
The first movie, based on the Heuksapa incident, was set in Garibong, Seoul, in 2004. Dong-seok shared that the second movie is different from the first, from where and when the movie is based on to the cast and tactics used to capture villains.
The Roundup takes place in 2008 and follows Detective Ma and the Geumcheon Police’s Major Crimes Unit as they head off to Vietnam to repatriate a fugitive. But soon after their arrival, the detective uncovers the heinous crimes and bloody breadcrumbs left behind by vicious murderer Kang Hae-sang (Son Sukku).
“In The Roundup, we pieced together different incidents and crimes that happened from 2007 to 2010 to create the case for this movie,” said Dong-seok.
“As the series unfolds, we are thinking of changing the time period to make the film come closer to current times.”
Dong-seok revealed last month that he is already working on the third movie in the series, and the location and movie plot in each movie in the series would be different.
While new characters would be introduced throughout the series, Dong-seok said detective Ma will continue to be in the centre of the films which would focus on how he goes about solving different crime cases.
In addition to being the star of the film, he also participated in the planning and production of the latest movie.
The Roundup’s fighting scenes
The Roundup is packed with many action scenes following the high expectations that were set with the exhilarating stunts in the first film.
Dong-seok, who is trained in boxing and dabbled a little in wrestling, said: “We really wanted to put judo in some scenes, so I earnestly learnt judo for this movie. To do that, I went to professional MMA fighter Kim Dong-hyun’s gym to learn judo. We combined boxing, judo and self-defence martial arts for this film.
“I have a lot of different actions that I’m thinking about that hopefully will come out as we build out this franchise — various action scenes in new situations, new environments, with new people in new scenes.”
Actor Sukku, however, is new to action scenes, describing himself as “just a first-timer” during an earlier press event held in Seoul in April. He had to do some preparation on his end in order to keep up with Dong-seok on set.
“I heard that Dong-seok’s previous co-stars gained about 1kg for the shoots. I did the same, but it wasn’t that easy to gain weight. I also had to maintain it because the shooting got extended.”
‘Ma Suk-do as a character has a lot of me in him’
Dong-seok also shared why he decided to participate in producing the series.
“I’ve always wanted to play a detective or do action films as an actor, but unfortunately, these roles did not really come to me. So, I thought I should create one myself,” he said.
He also mentioned that this wish to play a policeman stemmed from his childhood dream of becoming one.
As someone who has spent half of his life boxing and the other half as an actor, Dong-seok wanted to combine both aspects in a movie.
“To me, these movies are myself, there’s very much of me in this movie.”
Catch Ma Dong-seok, Son Sukku, Choi Guy-hwa and Park Ji-hwan in The Roundup, opening in theatres here May 26.
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