“Part Black Comedy, Part Slasher, Part Revenge Thriller. All Exploitation!”
Drew Barnhardt’s “Rondo” is a darkly sexual, craftily stylized and wildly entertaining crime and revenge melodrama. It is also totally twisted.
Paul, a troubled young veteran, is told by a psychiatrist that sex is the solution to his dependency and drinking problems. However, things turns out otherwise as Paul and his sister become part of a criminal underworld where sex and murder happen daily and revenge is a way of life.
Paul (Luke Sorge), like so many others who have returned from war, is struggling. His world now seems to be filled with so many who do not seem to care about anything and there is no meaning to everyday activities. He has taken to moping around the house and this concerns his sister, Jill (Brenna Otts) who feels that something drastic will have to happen to bring him back to who he was before.
It’s not uncommon for people returning from war to struggle in a world where nobody gives them clear instructions and everyday events seem devoid of meaning. Paul (Luke Sorge) is moping around the house so much that his sister Jill (Brenna Otts) feels drastic action is needed. She send him to visit a therapist. On arrival he is told that he could be prescribed drugs but, most likely, all he really needs is to get laid. Various suggestions are made about fetish-related activities whilst he sits there looking dumbstruck. Then he is told about a very special service that may be suitable for him. His prescription is an address and a password: “rondo”.
He must decide whether or not to fill it and of course he does. When Paul arrives at the address, he is told to fill out a form and surrender his phone. A young woman (Iva Nora) enters the room, introduced as Mrs. Tim, who is announced to be a willing participant in proceedings. She’s quiet making it hard to tell if she’s in subspace or on drugs, and Paul doesn’t know how to react, so he just nods politely when he is told what he and the other two men will be expected and permitted to do to her. He speaks with one of the men while the other goes into the bedroom with her. This guy is apparently a regular at events like this, and his casual attitude puts Paul at ease. But later, when he went outside for a cigarette, he sees something that leaves him shocked.
We are reminded of the exploitation classics of the Sixties and Seventies, and although it deals with the subject of sexual violence, there’s actually very little of that. It features one other act of violence that some viewers may find particularly traumatic, and some of its violence is highly stylized, slowed down and shot close up and we can see bullets ripping into bodies, but it doesn’t get much more violent than that.
The plot here is simple and the the film works with its combination of its deliberate style and confidence of its delivery. Director Drew Barnhardt has approached every shot as a perfectionist and with the cinematography from John Bourbonais they have created an intense atmosphere, make everything look sleazy or beautiful (or both). I know I have not told you much about the storyline but due to the nature of the film, I can’t.