Rondo is a weird blend of half-intentional and half-probably-not-intentional weirdness, humor, and spectacle. Sometimes actors forget to act and just say their lines. Sometimes they gleefully nosh the scenery like it’s made of cotton candy. Sometimes shots are just a dude carrying the camera around a friends’ apartment. Sometimes framing evokes the moods of the 70s grindhouse like few low-budget homages can. Sometimes the soundtrack is a tinkling theme that reminds me of Creepshow (the only good part of that movie. Fight me.). Sometimes it’s five solid minutes of dubstep while a guy smokes on a balcony. To say it’s inconsistent is an understatement.
Yet somehow it finds a way to ride those inconsistencies in a unique way. If nothing else, Rondo is something. It really, really is something.
Director: Drew Barnhardt
Release: June 4 (VOD, DVD)
We open with the music, narration, and establishing shots out of something from A Christmas Story with the half-price Morgan Freeman narrator (who is never part of the movie) explaining that Gregory (G.C. Clark) is a veteran released with a dishonorable discharge who’s turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with what he experienced while in the service. He ends up homeless and lives with his sister, where he lays on the couch (with his shoes on like some kind of animal) and drinks.
His sister, Jill (Brenna Otts) wants him to see a therapist who specializes in drug and alcohol abuse. He meets with the therapist, and the very pregnant (the narrator makes sure to point this out several times) lady tells him to to keep drinking until he can get laid enough that he stops feeling so bad. For this doctor, all the world’s woes can be cured by sex. Not just missionary (the position of misery), either. No, she thinks Gregory needs it kinky and freaky, going as far as to explain things like toilet play to the camera like she’s reading the lines for the first time, and it kind of makes it funnier. The therapist writes Gregory an address and password on the back of a business card and sends him on his merry way.
I guess Gregory does have some testicular backup, though, because he goes to this apartment where two other dudes are preparing to gangbang an old rich guy’s wife. One banger explains to Gregory that this is actually a very cool and awesome thing to do, because housewives are usually bipolar and require “deep dish anal” from several partners, and all husbands should allow their wives the pleasure. Also, he’s not an alcoholic. He’s a badass. This guy sells it, too. He’s skeevy and enthusiastic as hell — until he’s actually having sex, in which case he just sort of crouches down and looks around like he has no idea what to do and is afraid that everyone will know he’s never had sex before. Once again, this strange disconnect somehow creates an eerie air that I don’t think was meant to happen but does draw you into Rondo‘s lurid little world.
Lurdell (Reggie De Morton) is the man who set up the gangbang, and he explains the rules the way you imagine Grady would in The Shining. It’s this weird, stilted, pausing performance, and I can’t tell if it’s really bad or really good — but later, after beating a guy with a crowbar so hard that brains show, he plops on a couch and sighs, “I hate white people,” and it feels like the most true thing anyone has ever said. This man’s a treasure.
To explain any more of what happens or what becomes of our characters would for sure spoil the fun. This fills a place like last year’s Apocalypse Rising for me, where you just need to let it wash over you, each strange layer one after another. You’ll start with a small chuckle and glance around to make sure you’re not the only one who has no idea what you just got yourself into, because for some reason this revenge thriller feels more like a broadcast sitcom, but by the end you’re watching a Victoria’s Secret model blasting the hell out of people with an AK-47, and you’re shouting “Blow up the baby!” at the screen.
It feels really good. It feels like something.