Son Suk-ku holds his own in the battle of the villains


Fans of “The Outlaws” (2017) have been doubtful about whether any villain could live up to the iconic Jang Chen, the infamous mafia leader from Harbin, China who takes on the all-powerful cop Ma Seok-do (portrayed by Ma Dong-seok, also known as Don Lee).

In “The Roundup,” the sequel to "The Outlaws" released in local theaters Wednesday, Seok-do takes on Kang Hae-sang, portrayed by Son Suk-ku.

And judging by reviews, Hae-sang may be just as ruthless as Jang Chen.

The film is set in 2008, four years after Seok-do captured Jang Chen. Seok-do and his boss Jeon Il-man (portrayed by Choi Guy-hwa) travel to Vietnam to collect a suspect who turned himself in. However, Seok-do instinctively realizes that there is a bigger crime linked to the incident, and uncovers Hae-sang, a serial killer who holds Korean tourists at ransom and ultimately kills them after getting his hands on the money. Seok-do, who firmly sticks to his belief that “bad guys should be put to rest” no matter what, decides to take on Hae-sang.

At the global press event after the local press screening earlier this month, Ma Dong-seok, who stars and also participated in the production of both of the films, revealed that he already had about eight ideas for more films in “The Outlaws” series. The offer to be the villain in the sequel went to Son in 2019, around the time JTBC drama series “Be Melodramatic,” in which the actor starred in, was finishing up.

Scenes from "The Roundup," which sees Ma Dong-seok return as "the beast cop" Ma Seok-do who takes on Son in the role of a serial killer named Kang Hae-sang. [ABO ENTERTAINMENT]

Son admitted during an online press interview Wednesday that he hesitated saying yes to the role straightaway.

“When I receive an offer for a film or a series, there are some scripts to which I almost immediately say yes to and there are some I mull over,” Son said via a Zoom from the Philippines, where he’s currently shooting the Disney+ original series “Casino.”

“I deliberated a lot on whether or not I should take the role in ‘The Roundup.’ I don’t really prefer action films, nor have I done any hardcore action scenes. Although I’m a huge fan of ‘The Outlaws,’ it was a different matter whether I should participate in the next film. But my point of view changed drastically after I met the director, Lee Sang-yong. This film is his feature debut, and he had such ardent passion for the film, which really moved me.”

Son said he wasn't intimidated by Yoon Kye-sang's portrayal of Jang Chen, and instead, looked at the film as an independent project rather than as part of a franchise.

Son Suk-ku as the villain Kang Hae-sang in "The Roundup" [ABO ENTERTAINMENT]

“One of the key words that I singled out for Kang Hae-sang was resentment,” Son said. “Even with trivial matters, he is instantly triggered, and there’s no turning back for him when his anger mode is activated. He doesn’t think rationally — he instantly reacts to his emotions. For him, action comes first, then he thinks.

“I don’t know why I gravitated toward the color orange, but I personally requested to the stylist that I wanted to wear orange,” Son said. “I think it was one of the main qualities of the character that I defined him by. There is this orange jumper that Kang Hae-sang wears in Korea which the stylist personally had made for the character. There is a scene with him, wearing the jumper, where he viciously stabs someone in the street. If I was a witness to that event, I would imagine I would refer to him as ‘this crazy guy wearing an orange jumper.’ I think it would leave a strong imprint on my mind.”

Although Hae-sang seems a fair match for Seok-do, the actor smiled and answered sheepishly that he believes that his character would lose in a battle against Jang Chen in the cinematic universe of “The Outlaws.”

“Ma Dong-seok once said as a joke that the villains should get together — both Jang Chen and Kang Hae-sang — for a movie,” he said. “But I don’t think Kang Hae-sang would dare to pick a fight because he'd probably be traumatized after being so badly beaten up by Ma Seok-do [in 'The Roundup'].”

“[However], I have no intention of appearing again in this franchise,” Son said. “I don’t think it would be a good choice for either the sake of the film or for myself [...] I think it is best for the franchise that they continue to challenge themselves. For the character as well, I think Kang Hae-sang’s existence becomes meaningful when he has a clear beginning and ending to his story, just as was the case for Jang Chen.”

Son as Mr. Gu in JTBC drama series "My Liberation Notes" [ABO ENTERTAINMENT]

The actor is currently starring as “Mr. Gu” in JTBC drama series “My Liberation Notes,” an alcoholic outcast who gets involved in the lives of three siblings —Yeom Chang-hee, Yeom Gi-jeong and Yeom Mi-jeong — who are struggling to break free from the stifling mundaneness of their lives. The series is earning praise for its sincere, direct dialogue and detailed descriptions of the characters’ ordinary lives.

“There are parts of me in both characters [Hae-sang and Mr. Gu],” Son said. “But of course, those qualities have been fully in maximized in each character. I think for me, I’ve become more talkative as I age and I just feel that the time flowing by is so precious — I want to have a good time with people around me. Both characters are equally difficult, but especially for Mr. Gu, I think he is very, very soft-hearted. For Kang Hae-sang, I think I spoke even less than what was written in the script.”

Son seems to have a soft spot for Mr. Gu, who he believes could become “the best character that I've ever portrayed.”

“I think director Kim Sok-yun already knew this [before we began filming],” Son said. “He said that many things will change for me as an actor through this character, and I vaguely felt that as well. I can’t really feel the responses or reviews, but I still am astounded that Kim foresaw that, that he’s already had an image of Gu in his head and led me [to him].”