Don Lee and Kim Moo-yul prepare for battle in 'The Roundup: Punishment'

The main cast and director of ″The Roundup: Punishment″ speak during a press conference for the upcoming film at Megabox's Coex branch in southern Seoul on Monday. From left: actors Lee Dong-hwi, Kim Moo-yul, Don Lee, Park Ji-hwan and director Heo Myeong-haeng. [ABO ENTERTAINMENT]

Actors Don Lee and Kim Moo-yul will face off against each other in the latest installment of the famed “The Roundup” film franchise.

But it isn't the first time these actors have opposed each other on screen. Just five years ago, Kim played a cop and Lee a crime boss in the action thriller “The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil.”

And now in “The Roundup: Punishment,” the roles have reversed. Lee, as “monster cop” Ma Suk-do, chases after Kim’s Baek Chang-ki, the series' latest villain, who heads an illegal online gambling organization. The film is slated for release on April 24.

Despite the role reversal, the chemistry between the actors remains the same, and they both agree. In fact, it was actually Lee, who is also known as Ma Dong-seok, that recommended Kim to play the role of Chang-ki.

Lee is also a producer for “The Roundup” franchise.

A still from ″The Roundup: Punishment″ [ABO ENTERTAINMENT]

“I remember Kim being able to shoot difficult action scenes so well that I always thought I would want to work with him again on a different piece,” Lee said during a press conference for the latest film at Megabox’s Coex branch in southern Seoul on Monday.

Kim echoed Lee, adding that “while in the two films we were rivals, maybe next time we will be able to fight on the same side.”

“The Roundup” franchise, favored by fans for its mix of well-coordinated, highly technical action scenes and witty, comedic moments, continues to do what it does best. But this time, a keen audience will notice that the fighting style on display is a little different.

The first two films focused on the “slugger” boxing style, Lee explained, which is more about using raw and powerful blows to knock opponents out. But after receiving feedback that the movements didn't seem like “actual boxing,” Lee opted for a sharp, finesse-oriented boxing style for the third film.

The latest entry contains a mix of both, so the action scenes are “jaunty, but still weighty,” Lee said. “We got rid of miscellaneous techniques and kept the punches big.”

A still from ″The Roundup: Punishment″ [ABO ENTERTAINMENT]

Because Chang-ki is introduced as a former Korean special forces officer, the character is shown to be an expert fighter in terms of both stamina and strength.

Kim felt it was important that he seemed “professional” as a fighter, which is why he made sure he didn’t “play it safe.” He was able to achieve this with the help of the film’s director Heo Myeong-haeng, who also helmed the action sequences in the last three films.

Scene stealer Jang Yi-soo, played by actor Park Ji-hwan, is back as one of the leads, after being absent for most of the last film.

“The Roundup: Punishment” also features chuckle-worthy ad-libs as well as a special cameo by Korea’s first criminal profiler Kwon Il-yong.

Kwon is a popular face for Koreans due to his numerous appearances in crime television shows. His cameo took a lot of persuasion, with the profiler making a number of checks on the screenplay.

“Kwon kept avoiding us because he was so reluctant about the offer at first,” Lee said. “But we were so insistent because we thought he was perfect for the role. Luckily, he gave us his approval.”

A still from ″The Roundup: Punishment″ [ABO ENTERTAINMENT]
A still from ″The Roundup: Punishment″ [ABO ENTERTAINMENT]

“The Roundup” franchise plans to continue until its eighth film. With this being the series' fourth film, high expectations for the franchise continue. The series became the first in Korea to sell over 30 million tickets, and “The Roundup: Punishment” was invited to the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year.

The main goal, according to Lee, is “to entertain.”

For Lee Dong-hwi, who stars as a corrupt IT genius and villain in the film, watching “The Roundup” films is like keeping up with your favorite singer releasing a new album.

“I think for the audience, they know what to expect, yet they anticipate a new film because the action in it is what they enjoy seeing,” he said. “It’s like when the singer belts out the beautiful high notes; it’s euphoric.”

As for the next film? “The tone will be different,” Don Lee says. “There’s going to be a lot of changes.”