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Monday, May 27, 2019

RONDO -- DVD Review by Porfle

"Sex. Murder. Revenge." is the tagline for the colorfully noirish RONDO (Artsploitation Films, 2018), and it's as good a summary of the action as you could ask for.  Even better if you preface it with the words "Really, Really Twisted" and then add a few expletives such as "Yikes!" and "Holy squibs, Batman!"

Indy filmmaker Drew Barnhardt has written a doozy of a weird-but-fun script and directed the heck out of it by spinning his low budget into cinematic gold that looks as sharp and visually interesting as most movies you'll see on the big or small screen. And he has the kind of cast to work with in which there is no weak link.

Paul (Luke Sorge) is a PTSD-plagued war vet living with his sister Jill (Brenna Otts), who sends him to a therapist for help. Her diagnosis is odd--she not only suggests Paul keep drinking, but recommends he get a "good lay" and turns him on to a local fetish group that meets in a high-rise apartment where the password is (you guessed it) "Rondo."

The narrative up till then seems pretty straightforward, albeit with some distinct tongue-in-cheek touches like an overly arch narrator dispensing exposition and a bone dry, deadpan sense of humor that really comes into play after the "therapist prescribes drunken fetish orgy to disturbed war vet" moment.

What to reveal without spoiling it...?  Suffice it to say that once Paul says the magic word "Rondo" he enters into a world of illicit sex of the extremely weird kind.  And since RONDO is a horror-thriller with the tagline "Sex. Murder. Revenge.", things don't go well. In fact, Paul finds himself hunted by very bad people and his sister Jill gets sucked into the whole very sordid and very, very bloody affair.

It's sexy but in a "I feel so dirty" kind of way, and then comes the violence and extreme gore and nail-biting suspense which Barnhardt stages like a seasoned pro, pulling off several whiplash-inducing plot twists that yank the rug right out from under us. 

This is especially true during the scene where a couple of ruthlessly efficient killers invade Jill's home late at night while she and Paul are asleep, and in another sequence later on which finds Jill foolishly offering herself up as a sexual submissive in hopes of infiltrating the "Rondo" collective. 

Hitchcock fans may recognize a couple of plot elements that are very similar to PSYCHO and darn near as effective, including the introduction of a strong, take-charge character halfway through the story who we feel is going to really get to the bottom of this whole demented business and kick a few bad guy butts.

I also kept thinking that the oddball dialogue, quirky characters (especially the irredeemably vile villains), and off-kilter situations which quickly escalate into nerve-wracking peril for the protagonists were a lot like what might happen if Quentin Tarantino and Dean Koontz got peanut butter on each other's chocolate and vice versa.

Anyway, you got your prolifically-homicidal bad guys, your good guys drawn into a (seemingly) inescapable death trap of horror, graphic violence and gore, that irresistible Tarantino/Koontz sort of zing, and a director who makes it all look good. What's left? Ah, yes...revenge. 

That's where we find out that the tagline isn't just three separate words, but the ingredients which blend together into one of the most satisfying "revenge porn" endings you'll ever see.  As good as RONDO has been up till then--and it's been very, very good--it's during the last five or ten minutes when several dozen well-placed squibs give us that warm, fuzzy feeling that all's right with the world.

Official webpage

Watch the trailer

Buy it at Amazon

    Format: DVD
    Catalog: ART65
    UPC: 851597006759
    Number of discs: 1
    Country: USA
    Language: English (captions available)
    Rating: NR
    Year: 2018
    Length: 88
    Audio: Dolby 5.1
    Aspect ratio: 1.77:1    

    Bonus features: Director's commentary,
                    music commentary,
                    deleted scenes (with and without commentary),
                    art featurette,
                    two trailers


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