Scorching the Retinas – Rondo – worthy of the title of American Grindhouse? A Cult Gem or merely another forgettable Indy Feature?
Writer/Director – Drew Barnhardt
Runtime – 89 minutes
A Barnhardt Picture
Recently the kind folks at Artsploitation Films supplied me with viewing materials the likes of which I’ll admit I usually don’t bother with. Although in this instance based on their stellar record of delivering cinematic gems, I figured why the hell not, give it a shot. Much like my last viewing experience from them, D.I.Y (from Greece) it could also serve to surprise me warranting a few words and perhaps another entry in the dusty little corner of the WWW I like to refer to as a location I place my various ‘droppings’, ponderances and grammatical diatribe-esque rant on all manner of things I have little experience with. Enough with my B.S onto the matter at hand.
Rondo offers “red hot piping revenge”, sights worthy of “cult status” and a slew of other things stated in a manner to cause more eyeballs to fall upon it, but is this merely hype? It’s happened before and I’ve been left more disappointed than a Frat party entourage without a paddle to utilize. Suffice it to say, I’m here to investigate.
(Teaser Trailer courtesy of Rondo The Movie)
The film’s stylized opening credits give hints as to the films content. A glass of bourbon, next to a gun, opens the scene. The scene plays backwards and shows bullets and cigarettes dropped within the glass causing obvious ruckus and movement, stirring, of said liquid (I would imagine of crystal origins). Alongside text of a Victorian font this hints at a classical, sensible, regal nature hiding perhaps menace, intrigue and nefarious deeds aplenty, or is this just my mind moving ahead of itself and jumping to conclusions.
From the opening scene it’s obvious that this is a B movie but made with undeniable profession flair. Another element which instantly makes an impact is the films complementary soundtrack. A narration, with a hint of dark humor, accompanies the story excellently and gives a running commentary of Paul, played by Luke Sorge, a returning vet with a mysterious past, a dishonorable discharge to his credit and nights plagued by nightmares resulting from the mysterious circumstances by which he was discharged. Paul, finds himself living with his sister, after suffering a short bout of homelessness, he has rules to follow, a sofa on which to sleep and a ‘bottle’ whose temptation he has to try to ignore.
Finding himself in front of a therapist Paul confronts his demons, though hears some strange advice, a few thoughts on fetishism and receives a prescription which seems more than a little intriguing. Unpredictable dialogue in this scene makes an instant impression and draws the viewer in, the conversation herein is predictably one-sided though not what one would imagine a typical therapist to recommend in the situation. The intrigue level bar is suddenly raised high.
Choosing to ‘fill his Prescription’, which admittedly he finds a little strange, Paul finds himself within the confines of a luxury apartment surrounded by a myriad of personalities and a host.
An abrupt deadpan commentary, by way of the host Lurdell, portrayed brilliantly by Reggie De Morton (The Mentalist, The Bold and the Beauitiful), on where to place one’s ejaculate comes from out of nowhere, is rather shocking, reminiscent of Guy Ritchie London Gangster series of films (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) in its delivery and hints at what hopefully transpires into a riotous cinematic experience. “Keep it on the Plastic” is a quote that sticks (to the mind) like pesky white bread to the roof of the mouth in a sandwich experience one hopes to enjoy rather than have stick to their fingertips in a messy exploration one would rather not perform in a public place.
The deadpan delivery continues and the mood of the movie changes; “Anal is of course wonderful, it is of course permitted and is encouraged often”. “A little blood never hurt anybody, but keep it on the plastic.” After vividly describing all of the sexual activities which are permitted (and in fact encouraged) it’s further stated that “Mrs Timm (the “plaything” for wont of a better term) is a lady!”
Entering into this foreign world Paul encounters odd, eccentric types and delves into interactions which leave his mouth agape “fucked six women this week, only had to pay for two!” The movie flows, Paul explores his surroundings some, a pounding of the non- traditional sense takes place and Paul is abruptly sober looking for a way to GTFO and quick! A “pumping” (is that a term cool kids use nowadays?) rave/techno score (?) serves appropriately as the soundtrack to Paul’s exodus.
And Paul is back to square one. Depressed, drunk and in fear. Calling the authorities leaves Paul feeling worse than he did before, compounded with helplessness, although they did comment it was the best call they’d received in weeks.
Paul has a sudden epiphany (And I’m doing my best not to give too many spoilers away!) perhaps the scenario was a set up. Perhaps Mr. Timm was being cheated upon and Mrs. Timm needed to be shown a lesson in the most blatant, brutal way. He tells his landlord, his sister, portrayed by the lovely Brenna Otts (Westworld, S.W.A.T) this and she scoffs (perhaps she’s in on it too? After all, it was she who supplied the therapist’s number!)
Enter the crooks. Paul awakes from a dream to be informally introduced to the business end of a crowbar and a cat and mouse scene ensues in which exquisite suspense music makes the tension level close to palpable.
A following scene displaying the chops of the filmmakers, includes the introduction of the police to the crime scene. A sprinkler system berates a window behind the victim’s position and their ‘interrogation’ sounds much like the water hitting the glass, it’s background static, undecipherable between the accumulating thoughts of revenge, grief and something else fighting its way to the surface. The camera moves back and forth, and back again making way for the intrusion of the officer an intrusion in the tangled thought processes of the victim.
Details are soon made to avenge a wrong, but even the best laid proposals do not always go according to plan. A shocking turn of events transpires into a scene including a bathtub which I’m sure the most hardened of gorehounds among us would’ve liked to have seen included in Scarface. With a queasy shock effect which far surpasses a similar crimson splattered scene in Reservoir Dogs and even one featuring Vinny Jones and a hammer swung expertly with vicious intent. “Honey, be a doll and remove all the batteries from the smoke detectors and open all the windows” adds a little levity and shows the killers to be somewhat relatable as (slightly) normal.
The inclusion of a ‘femme fatale’ is somewhat of a refreshing change, her role one which might not have been initially imagined though her every appearance steals the screen. I’m not going to say who it is (for fear of ruining the film) though I shall mention the actress, Gena Shaw, for the stellar role which she portrays and the way her inclusion and ‘just get down to it’ attitude drastically alters the course of the film when it’s least expected.
A later scene incorporates dizzying camera effects for a disoriented feel (bringing to mind the explicit, scarring the cortex cinematic fest which is Irreversible) to bring the viewer that much closer to the tumbled cacophony of thoughts which must be whirling around inside the confines of the victim’s head. Yet another, amongst a myriad of others, displays somewhat of a family gathering with the victim as a centerpiece following a bungled attempt at “turning the tables”.
The films finale is, not surprisingly, claret soaked unflinching in its glory and deliciously slow in its delivery or one could say “execution”. A fitting end which is glaringly O.T.T, vicious and wicked (not to mention up there with the original Robocop for the effective use of squibs, and a great many of them!) making for a feature one won’t soon forget and will be talking about for months to follow. A spin on the traditional revenge thriller, Rondo offers a great deal to enjoy and proves it’s not what you show it’s how you depict it, how you nestle the ‘atrocity’ within the story and the flair with which you pad it with. Showcasing family core values and morals Rondo is a movie one might possibly imagine seeing on a Disney roster, but obviously never will. But best of all the hype is deserved, Rondo is the real deal! And the gauntlet has been thrown – Beat his Tarantino!!
It goes without mentioning, though I shall, that one should catch this at their earliest convenience. Feel free to comment, tell me what you think or even suggest another title I should lay eyes and my ponderings upon.
Rondo will be available on all platforms, to rent and purchase on June 4th 2019.