In 2017, the first installment of a franchise (often called crime city), one that has broken records in South Korea: the outlaws. When it came out, it became one of the best-selling R-rated movies in the country; when the sequel, the summary, coming out in 2022, the series soared to whole new heights. It was the third highest-grossing South Korean film in the country’s history and the country’s first release since Parasite have more than 10 million viewers watching the movie in just 25 days. Now, in 2023, a third edition of the franchise will be released in South Korea and abroad: The Summary: No Way Out. A fourth film is scheduled to hit theaters in 2024.
Don Lee, also known as Ma Dong-seok, stars in all the films in the franchise as Ma Seok-do. Lee Sang-yong, who directed the summary in 2022, returns for The Summary: No Way Outwhich also features Lee Joon-hyuk (Together with the gods: two worlds, Strange) as the antagonist, while Munetaka Aoki, Kim Min-jae, and Lee Beom-soo appear alongside many others.
However, years after the events of the previous two films, new crime is rampant on the streets of South Korea. It’s up to Ma Seok-do to figure out what’s going on before she starts affecting more innocent people, but not before facing a particular set of challenges.
Investigation of a multinational drug trafficking network
For those unfamiliar with the series, there is a low barrier to entry for The Summary: No Way Out. It is not completely necessary to understand the adventures of Ma Seok-do, a detective who is willing to get dirty when the job calls for it. in some of the crime city movies, you’ve been given a very specific task that will possibly get you out of the country, but in this one, it’s all happening on the home front. South Korea has become known in part for its chaebol families, or those that run organizations like Samsung and LG Electronics.
While corruption in these families and politics may be rampant in reality, in the world of the movie, a corrupt police officer is involved in breaking his code of honor and selling drugs abroad. The external threat moves nationwide when Japanese mobsters team up with him and do the drug-related dirty work. Ma Seok-do teams up with the Metropolitan Investigation Team to try to find out what’s going on across the country when it comes to these drugs, forcing the police to follow the trail of breadcrumbs to the culprit.
However, a new level of danger is on the horizon when a group of police officers investigating a scene end up involved in a car accident, proving to the department as a whole that whoever is pulling the strings isn’t afraid to sacrifice some. of his men. in the process. But with the addition of the notorious Ma Seok-do to the police force and some indirect methods of gathering information, the film becomes a game of cat and mouse. There are many layers to structured violence like this, and Ma will squash them one by one over an hour and a half.
However, the signature of the series is the action scenes in which Ma defeats the criminals. Nothing seems to affect him when he’s surrounded by a group of people from the other side, even when the odds shouldn’t be in his favor. However, this film’s approach may seem a bit tamer compared to its predecessors, which dealt with themes of brutal murder and gang warfare. There isn’t much of an emotional arc outside of the events that happen strictly on screen, which really allows audiences to become immersed in the world of crime that is unfolding before them.
An anticlimactic slow burn
The Summary: No Way Out it plows through its story like a slow burn, creating some pacing issues that start to feel repetitive by the end. In a movie where the elements of suspense and crime are played, the tension overflows in each scene, one must stay on the edge of your seat. However, in this movie, his ending becomes highly predictable midway through, and it’s only a matter of time before the antagonist, Joo Seung-cheol, is caught and put behind bars. Members of the Japanese yakuza add a new element of surprise every time,
But even when we get to that final moment when Ma and Joo are facing each other, ready to finish their little game, everything seems to happen slowly. Their fight turns anticlimactic, a necessary scene to end the story. Every time Ma Seok-do gets close to any fight against the law throughout the movie, it seems all too easy for him to take down an entire group of people. The Summary: No Way Out it doesn’t take the necessary risks seen in previous editions of the series, making the stakes much lower. There are glimpses of what could happen if they fail to stop those behind the distribution of the drug, but they’re treated as an afterthought, something lost in the background noise. Maybe it’s because Ma Seok-do’s travels are meant to lean towards the more comedic side of action and crime. It’s in the comedy elements where this movie shines, as the action scenes leave more to be desired at the end of the day.
Throughout the movie, the only significant character is Ma Seok-do. He becomes the one constant and the one to save the day. That makes sense for a series centered on this character, but with a new cast of supporting characters in each movie, there isn’t enough time to create continuity when it comes to characters, especially since each new installment in the series ends up adding a long run. jump in time However, it becomes almost comical how virtually none of the characters in The Summary: No Way Out plus Ma is memorable. They exist simply to join Ma on her journey to defeat crime.
Entertainment about emotional narratives
It has been mentioned before that there are plans to convert the summary in an eight-film series, and even two spinoff films are on the table to potentially be made. I hope they learn from this installment. The Summary: No Way Out he makes a misstep compared to the previous two entries in the series due to wanting to stay comfortable. If the series is going to continue for that many movies in the future, it may need to step out of its comfort zone and push the boundaries of what’s already been done, or its core audience may disappear.
The series’ most dedicated fans may be happy to see Ma Seok-do take down criminals before they can lay a finger on him, but it can only be done so many times before he starts to feel old. When it comes to movies and entertainment in general, taste can be very subjective, and what might be good for others may not be appealing to the person across the theater. The Summary: No Way Out It could be one of those movies. Some may enjoy the comedic elements, while others will find it mediocre.
Regardless, it’s a triumphant return for Don Lee thanks to a strong performance. He perfectly inhabits the role of Ma Seok-do once again and does an excellent job throughout the film. Although the antagonists can’t muster the kind of energy that makes them menacing and a true threat, he almost helps bolster Ma’s performance throughout the film, making Ma Seok-do a character literally unstoppable. For those in love with action, there’s everything you need to make that formula come true: cars, guns, a Japanese yakuza pulling out a sword when the moment calls for it. It’s entertaining, but maybe it doesn’t satisfy emotional satisfaction (or basic originality) at the end.