Before talking about the film, we have to keep aside the fact that it is practically impossible for three guys to take down two gangs, and that too in a city where they’ve just arrived. We are talking about 2017’s “The Outlaws,” directed by Kang Yoon-sung, where the Black Dragon gang from China, consisting of just three men, takes down two gangs based out of Seoul, South Korea. But the film effectively holds our suspension of disbelief strong by keeping things grounded as much as possible. Ma Dong Seok and his attitude are a treat to watch, and the rest automatically follows. There aren’t many action scenes, but the story manages to make us sit and wait for them, as that’s really all there is to the film. It’s all to the eyes and none to the mind and this certainly makes for a compelling watch.
‘The Outlaws’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
The year is 2004. When a member of the Venom Gang arrives at the Geumcheon police station badly stabbed, Officer Ma Seok-do finds out that the guy’s name is Hullang from the Yi-soo gang. He decides to bring together the bosses, Dok-Sa (Venom gang) and Jang Yi-soo (Yi-soo gang) and make them apologize to one another. It is clear that he maintains a relationship, not a friendly one, with the bosses, and hence they listen to him. There are multiple gangs, but there is an unspoken peace treaty that makes the gangs mind their businesses. It also keeps them away from the police, but whenever they decide to go to war against one another, they end up in front of Seok-Do’s fists. In a way, Seok-Do’s department is a gang in itself, one that, if not feared, is respected.
On the other hand, Jang Chen and his partners Wi Seong-rak and Yang Tae of China’s Black Dragon gang have smuggled their way into Seoul. They torture Gil-Su, a member of the Venom gang, who owes them money. When Dok-Sa arrives at the location with his gang, Jang Chen kills him. Chen then kills Gil-Su and claims authority over the Venom gang as well. After that, Jang decides to visit the Choon-Sik gang’s business premises and claim it as well. Ma Seok-do is also present there to talk to the boss of the Choon-Sik gang, Hwang Choon-Sik, about the murders but ends up drunk and asleep. He is awakened by a phone call and finds his colleagues at the location. He finds out that the three Chinese guys breached the premises and wreaked havoc, chopping off the host’s arm. Ma Seok-do’s team accesses the CCTV footage and sees the faces of the Black Dragon members. The police also find Dok-Sa’s body parts in a dustbin. Meanwhile, Black Dragon makes its way to an arcade shop run by the Yi-soo gang and takes it over, threatening to kill Jang Yi-soo, who is left alone without his boys.
Later on, while eating at a restaurant, Ma Seok-do and his team have an encounter with the Black Dragon, but they are only able to capture Wi Seong-rak. Suk-Do decides to use him as bait to capture Jang Chen and Yang Tae. Will the Geumcheon police be successful in bringing an end to the Black Dragon gang before they can take any more lives recklessly? “The Outlaws” answers the question.
The Bad And The Wicked
The Outlaws is yet another take on the “good cop, bad cop” trope, but this time Ma Seok-do embodies both. He is good to the good and bad to the bad. He ensures that all the gangs are operating without posing any threat to society by maintaining rather friendly relations with them. From the looks of it, he also seems to get a cut from their businesses. We see his wicked side in the way he behaves with the bosses of the gangs and his friends at work, but when he is on a mission, it is his bad side that takes center stage. He goes all in when facing goons, and he makes it very clear that he is great with his fists. He respects the civilians and loves to have fun with his co-officers. Basically, he is someone who enjoys his work. We do not get to see his family, which poses the question of whether he has one. Maybe he lost them due to a crime that involved knives. Hence, his hatred and fear for the weapon, which he mentions to one of his co-workers. More often, it is an object that brings forth memories, which, in Ma Seok-do’s case, are painful. However, he doesn’t let it out and, from the looks of it, is easily able to cope with it. He is one self-controlled guy who knows how to maneuver his way about his job.
On the other hand, we have the unpredictable Jang Chen of the Black Dragon gang. We do not know whether it was a flaw in the character or if he is supposed to be so awkwardly dynamic by nature. In the first half of the film, we see him very calm, composed, and barely speaking. His assistants do all the talking and roughing people up. In the second half, all of a sudden, Jang Chen turns into this monster of a man bent on killing all those who get in his way, and he doesn’t even spare children. And the change from the former to the latter is so drastic that it becomes ludicrous rather than scary. As for the mind-boggling fact that the three of them, Jang Chen, Wi Seong-rak, and Yang Tae easily took down the Venom gang and the Yi-soo gang, it makes no sense, no matter how utterly gruesome and horrifying they may be. It is almost as if the creators decided to create the characters in such a manner that they could only be balanced by Ma Seok-do’s.
‘The Outlaws’ Ending Explained – Does Ma Seok-do Bring An End To The Black Dragon Gang?
In a word, yes. The creators have done a pretty good job of delaying the capture of the Black Dragon gang by the Geumcheon police. After Wi Seong-rak and Yang Tae are captured, Ma Seok-do goes after Jang Chen, who is trying to flee back to China. He is ultimately intercepted by Ma Seok-do at the airport washroom, and after a gruesome hand-to-hand fight, Ma Seok-do gets Jang Chen in handcuffs. He is taken into custody, and the film ends with Ma Seok-do being summoned by the Commissioner. The smile on his face seems to say that he is about to receive his next mission, which will probably be explored in the sequel, i.e., “The Roundup.”
Frankly speaking, there isn’t anything left to the mind once the film has ended. What we see is what happens and nothing more. There is something very tangible and visceral in the film that doesn’t let us wait to wonder if what’s happening can indeed happen for real. We let go of ourselves and floated in whichever direction the flow of the film took us. Overall, it is Ma Dong-seok, aka Don Lee, on whose shoulders the film stands tall. How tall? That’s up to you.