RONDO is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, or frankly in a long time. The film is an impeccably written modern day low-budget exploitation masterpiece. It starts off with a voice over narration shinning some light on the life of war veteran Paul (Luke Sorge; Eat, Hipster the Musical). He’s living through some dark times, suffering from alcoholism and sleeping on his sister’s couch. His sister Jill (Brenna Otts; S.W.A.T., Westworld) runs a tight ship and has every intention of straightening her brother out. At the outset of the film, Jill tells Luke she has found a therapist that she believes will help him with his addiction and PTSD problems.
Luke somewhat unwillingly agrees to go see the therapist, a very pregnant woman named Cassie (Gena Shaw; N.C.I.S., Dig). She gives him a rather unorthodox prescription of attending a “party” (read: a sex party), and writes the address and password on the back of one of her business cards. What’s the password? Well, RONDO of course. Luke attends the party and although he already knew it was going to be weird, he didn’t know exactly how weird it was going to be. At the party there are several guests, but the only three who stick around for the rest of the film are Lurdell (Reggie De Mortion; Herbie, The Last War Crime), DeShawn (Ketrick “Jazz” Copeland; Big Mike, Amatuer), and the incredibly creepy Mr. Tim (Kevin Sean Ryan; Teddy Boy, American Bystander). After the party we meet Luke and Jill’s dad, Sam (Michael Vasicek; The Old Man, Collider), who is also an alcoholic veteran. Guess those sorts of things run in the family!
At this point the film turns on its head into a completely different animal and the thrills and gasps and uncomfortable laughs don’t stop until the final frame. There are some truly brilliant performances, particularly by Brenna Otts, Gena Shaw, and Reggie De Mortion. The film is very reminiscent of early Tarantino and Brian DePalma and the violence is enough to make Chan-wook Park and Takashi Miike blush. Director Drew Barnhardt is creating very fresh, original and brutally uncompromising work that, to me, is very exciting in a world bereft of the likes of Jack Hill and Russ Meyer. Barnhardt is primed to become the king of modern exploitation if he keeps up on this hilarious, violent, and deeply intelligent trajectory.