Disturbed and dishonorably discharged Paul finds solace at the bottom of a glass bottle. As Paul falls deeper into dire depression with drugs, the drink, and cigarettes, Jill, his sister, lays down some ground rules while he crashes on her couch. At her advice and insistence, Jill schedules a psychological appointment for him and the doctor recommends sex as a release and not just any old sex, but the behind-the-doors, underground, Freak-a-leak kind of kinky encounters. Paul joins two other men in a high rise condominium, receiving instructions on how to treat and mistreat an affluent man’s wife, but Paul becomes the witness to an organized murder party and flees for his life, barely escaping the clutches of his captors, and returning home to his sister Jill to tell her everything. The only problem is, the killers know his address and now their business becomes a family affair loaded with straight razor slashing, crowbar bashing, and automatic weapon firing mayhem.
“Rondo” is an icy revenge thriller with bullets and blood galore from writer-director Drew Barnhardt. The “Murder Loves Killers Too” director reinvigorates a pulp noir approach into the independent film market that invokes woman power through all sorts of masculinity muck. Breanna Otts and Gena Shaw flourish as the anti-leading lady by wielding large assault rifles and being the kingpin of killers amongst a bunch of kneeling and broken men. “Rondo” is also about family, believe it or not. Whether bound in endless love or broken beyond repair,the theme of taking care of your own blood comes to the forefront, but before you go showing your kids, “Rondo” takes family to hell and back and then back to hell again for a rough ride of riveting vileness and hard-on revenge.
“Rondo” doesn’t necessarily have a lead character. In act one, the voice over utters over the pitiful existence that is Paul (“Galaxy of Horror’s Luke Sorge) who, at the persistence of his sister, tries to step outside the path of destruction by stepping into a sex den at the advice of a radical, and very pregnant, psychologist. The voice over is curiously used since pertaining to the fact that the narration, provided by Steve Van Beckum, becomes nearly Paul’s inner monologue by the end of his tenure. Act two transitions into a father and daughter reunion and then revenge plotters. No voice overs accompany the two, but Jill (“Westworld” and “SWAT” actress Breanna Otts) and her father Sam (“Rage of the Mummy’s Michael Vasicek) have an exposition fest involving what ifs and to dos. Sam felt to be a wasted character; an escaped VA patient returning to his children for revenge that doesn’t quite grow from there. On the other hand, Jill extends into act three as the sole protagonist and her thirst for vengeance is clunky and clanky, stirring up a halfcocked plan in the belly of the beast that happens to work in her favor and in our favor too as Otts ends up in lacy underwear in an episode of boobs and bullets. “Rondo” rounds out with Ketrick ‘Jazz’ Copeland, Reggie De Morton, Gena Shaw, Kevin Sean Ryan, Grant Benjamin Leibowitz and introducing Iva Nora in her first role and first nude scene.
Conceptually, Barnhardt’s tale of ravage savagery rouses out from the cobwebbed conventional anecdotal pathways and while “Rondo” might be a tale that’s rarely been told, apprising the plot into maturity bid Barnhardt with a far more difficulty, leaving to squash the answers to far more questions at the roll of the end credits. One of the more puzzling questions is why does the voice over only narrate for Paul? Kicking off with a voice over that explains Paul’s downtrodden life, then transitioning quietly into Paul’s inner thoughts, and then disconnected completely that literally leaves a punctuation question mark hover just over our scalps. There’s also the question of how deep this criminal organization roots in society? How did Cassie, wife of the barbaric boss Lurdell, get to assimilate herself into positions of power to influence poor souls to become meat for the grinder.
Artsploitation Films distributes an American bloodbath with “Rondo” onto DVD home video. The not rated release is presented in a widescreen, 1.77:1 aspect ratio, and despite some banding, the picture quality spruces a fine package with natural lighting and little-to-no filter use. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound pitches perfectly without some much of a hiccup. Range and depth are fine, though the film isn’t necessarily a heavy hitter with action, and the channels are level amongst the LFE gun blasts in the cap your ass finale. Bonus features include a director’s commentary, deleted scenes, selected music commentaries with composer Ryan Franks, and an exhibition of the gritty pulp cover art and lobby cards set to a musical score. “Rondo” is a cult indie classic through the venomous teeth of white-collar Americanisms and a torrent of human immoral inclination that relentlessly shows no mercy scene after scene.