Movie Review: "Rondo" (2019)
I’ve long maintained that the key to good, pure pulp is a trickier formula than you would think. Those who aren’t fans of the genre will tell you that all you need is decent dialogue mixed with violence for the sake of it and preferably some shock value. That’s an oversimplification. There’s really much more to it- color contrast with well-framed shots of a slightly skewed perspective, striking music, sleaze for the sake of it, and the ability to turn the narrative upside down. A little grain on the camera work doesn’t hurt, either.
That’s a heavy mix of elements for pure pulp. So how about something a little different? If Glenn Danzig were to review this film, he would definitely categorize it as a “hybrid moment” in the genre.
Rondo opens with Paul (Luke Sorge), a damaged veteran who’s crashing on her sister’s couch as he tries to come to grips with his budding alcoholism and mental collapse. His sister, Jill (Brenna Otts; Westworld) refers him to a therapist (Gena Shaw; Love in the Time of Monsters) who offers a highly unorthodox solution: an underground gangbang sex club. With nothing to lose, Paul takes her business card with the address and password and walks into…..well, I really can’t go any further. It’s that kind of movie.
This isn’t, as I alluded to, pure pulp by any measure of the definition, but the spirit is certainly there in spades. Rondo alternates between black humor, horror, pulp, exploitation, near-porn, and action as many times as it changes protagonists. While that’s not a complaint (hell, those are all great genres to dip your pen into), it does make the overall tone and style erratic. It’s safe to say that writer/director Drew Barnhardt wasn’t going for anything that would be described as steady.
Let’s be honest, though- steady has its place, but pulp ain’t it. When you’re going to go for a mix that has more style than substance and a cubic fuckton of inspirational ingredients, don’t screw around when it comes to baking it to a golden brown and topping it with some serious cheese. When the red stuff flows it flows with abandon and loving slow motion attention. There’s a separate budget just for squibs that really made me smile. Lines are crossed in the finale that I sincerely hope offended the shit out of some people; you’ll see what I mean. The “keep it on the plastic” speech is quoteworthy at your next gangbang, if that’s your thing.
The use of a voice over narration threw me a bit at first and then…and then…it locked it all into place for me. That narration lends a novel on the screen quality that adds a nicely lurid touch. And look at that poster! It’s a certifiable, goddamned thing of beauty, I tell you!
The cast put their all into it across the spectrum considering they don’t get any character development beyond one simple base desire (perversion or revenge). Rondo is a little dumbed down in that one regard, but deep character analysis isn’t really called for, either. The pulp spirit is all about violence, perversion, and revenge after all. I can’t complain about a finale that involves a group of morally reprehensible dirtbags, a gorgeous and vengeful woman in her bra and panties, a syringe full of horse tranq in the mouth, and an assault rifle with a seemingly bottomless clip.
If you can complain about that then this really isn’t the movie for you anyways.
It’s not perfect in a technical polish sense. There are long stretches without dialogue that cause a bit of a drag…but they pull you back with a bang each time. There’s also the lack of character development…but by God they’re all in on that single motivation! The point is that they’re more than forgivable transgressions for the sake of the pulp spirit and overall entertainment value.
You don’t really want your pulpy perversions to be too pretty, do you? Where’s the fun in that? The plastic is only a suggestion, really.