‘The Roundup: Punishment’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: Did Seok-do Get Justice For Jo Sung-jae?

Actor Ma Dong-seok has amassed quite a cult following as an action movie star, and The Roundup, the crime-action movie series, is one of the reasons for that. The series follows the veteran actor playing the role of Ma Seok-do, a rugged cop who gets entangled in some of the most notorious cases and almost always punches his way out of his problems. So far, the series has maintained a tradition of no-nonsense, simplistic storytelling, a mildly humorous tone, and massy action sequences that suit Ma Dong-seok’s style perfectly, and the fourth installment of the franchise, The Roundup: Punishment, is no exception. There is a pattern to the narrative style of the movie series, as Ma Dong-seok has tackled adversaries from different Asian countries with each entry so far, be it the crime boss from China, the serial killer from Vietnam, or the Japanese Yakuza. The fourth movie presents a dreaded merc operating from Philippines as the prime antagonist and follows the same pattern as well. All in all, The Roundup: Punishment delivers exactly what the franchise promises to its fans without making anything feel repetitive, even after four entries into the series.


Spoilers Ahead

Why was Jo Sung-jae murdered?

The Roundup: Punishment opens with a vicious murder, which sets the tone of the storyline. In the streets of the Philippines, Jo Sung-jae, a young man in his mid-twenties, bloodied and bruised and seemingly escaping an inhospitable condition, is seen running away from a group of assailants. As he approaches the authorities for help, Baek Chang-ki, a former STS mercenary, corners him and brutally stabs him and the present cops to death. We learn that Baek is the chief of security of an online gambling organization named Emperor Casino and handles its operations in the Philippines on behalf of Chang Dong-cheol, the obnoxious techie who is the founder and developer of the online casino, and also the admin who controls the cold hard profit. By forcing a number of abducted techies to remain fixated on screen to manipulate the outcome of the gambling rounds, Baek and his lackeys ensure the cash flow from the online casino remains constant, and Sung-jae was one of those hapless techies, who tried to escape from his miserable fate and instead paid the ultimate price.


Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency lieutenant Ma Seok-do had been investigating a possible case of online money laundering committed by Sung-jae, and his sudden, gruesome death surprised him. As the body of the victim is sent back to his homeland, South Korea, Seok-do studies the postmortem report and realizes that the case might have much deeper bearings. Sung-jae’s grieving mother pleads with Seok-do to deliver justice for her son, and as she takes her own life in agony over losing her son, Seok-do becomes determined to capture the culprits. 

Why did Baek arrive in Korea?

Meanwhile, Baek and his men engage in the violent takeover of rival online casino organizers, and despite him taking all the risks and doing the majority of the work, Dong-cheol shows an aloof demeanor when the topic turns to sharing the profits. Dong-cheol instead gets busy formulating another fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme, with QM Holdings CEO President Kwon acting as the front. Seok-do enlists the help of a couple of techies from the cybercrime department, who reveal the records of Sung-jae’s online activity had been removed by someone before his murder. From the techie duo, Seok-do also learns that Sung-jae might have been associated with the online gambling business, and with the help of a former gambler, Jang Yi-soo, he manages to nab one of the advertisers of the Emperor Casino.


Meanwhile, to give Dong-cheol a formal shakeup, Baek decides to arrive in Korea, but instead of him, the advertiser directs the police towards a fake clothing distributor. However, the distributor had ties with Baek as well, and to curb the threat of being exposed, Baek made a daring move by infiltrating the police station using a group of delivery agents as distraction and brutally murdering the captive distributor. As Seok-do investigates Dong-cheol’s affiliation with QM Holdings, he coincidentally confronts Baek, who manages to escape by orchestrating a hostage situation. Seok-do briefly suffers a setback after the deputy chief of the police department removes him and his team from the case due to their apparent failure, but remaining determined to bring the criminals to justice, the resolute detective manages to gain approval from the police commissioner himself. Baek’s trail of vicious murder continues as Dong-cheol sends him to oversee the cryptocurrency deal, and he murders the Emperor Casino chairman, Ko Jae Hyuk, in frustration. Realizing that Baek’s extremely violent methods can lead to severe repercussions, Dong-cheol withdraws his support and lets media exposure of his murders corner him. 

Did Seok-do finally get justice for Sung-jae?

Feeling the heat of possible exposure, Baek is forced to limit his movements, and Dong-cheol sends President Kwon to eliminate him, as he is willing to take care of the loose ends. However, Baek and his trusted accomplice, Jason, manage to kill all of Kwon’s henchmen and convince him to join Baek’s side to turn on Dong-cheol instead. As planned, Baek and Kwon take down Dong-cheol for good, and as Kwon and his gang take the cold, hard cash profit, Baek takes the servers to later set up an online casino abroad, which will let him earn way more profit anyway.


Under the guise of giving him an opportunity to be a cop, Seok-do manages to convince Jang Yi-soo to help set up a fake online gambling live streaming stage with the assistance of Philippine police. Like clockwork, Baek’s men raid the fake casino, only to get ambushed by the police, and using them, they manage to launch a crackdown on Emperor Casino. Tracing the Emperor Casino server to QM Holdings, Seok-do and co. pinpoint Kwon and Dong-cheol as the masterminds behind the crimes, and as Dong-cheol’s villa is raided by the police, they capture Kwon and his men red-handed. On the other hand, Baek almost manages to flee the country with the servers, but Seok-do makes a timely entry to stop Baek’s flight from taking off by informing the ground officials of the truth. Baek and Seok-do engage in brutal final fisticuff, and quite expectedly, Seok-do punches the living lights out of the mercenary. 

As The Roundup: Punishment ends, a funny bit follows as Jang Yi-soo gets frustrated after discovering Seok-do’s lies about the glorious opportunity of letting him join the police. Seok-do and his team pay their respects in front of the memorial dedicated to Sung-jae and his mother, now that the veteran detective has managed to keep his promise to the grieving mother. 

Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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