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Credits
  • Director: Drew Barnhardt
  • Producer: Guy Clark
  • Screenwriters: Drew Barnhardt
  • Cast: Luke Sorge, Brenna Otts, Ketrick “Jazz” Copeland, Gena Shaw, Reggie DeMorton, Joseph M. Veals, Kevin Sean Ryan, Grant Benjamin, Michael Vasicek, Iva Nora
  • Cinematography: John Bourbonais
Product Details
  • Format: DVD
  • Catalog: ART65
  • UPC: 851597006759
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Rating: NR
  • Year: 2018
  • Length: 88
  • Audio: Dolby 5.1
  • Aspect ratio: 1.77:1
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Twisted, kinky and violent, Rondo is a highly stylized pulp noir revenge/murder melodrama that relishes in the dark underbelly of civility. Troubled war vet Paul (Luke Sorge) is told by a psychiatrist that sex may be the solution to his dependency and drinking problems. She sends him to an apartment where he is to release his tensions by having sex with a beautiful young woman, all under the encouraging eyes of the woman’s husband. But deception is the name of the game as Paul and eventually his sister, are sucked into a bizarre criminal underworld where sex and murder are daily specials and revenge is served piping hot. Part black comedy, part slasher and part homage to the seedy films of 1970s grindhouse cinema, writer/director Drew Barnhardt has created a wholly unique American Indie.
Reviews

Rondo director Drew Barnhardt is evidently influenced [by grindhouse films]. His latest would feel right at home in Times Square circa 1977. It’s got elements of slasher films, black comedies, psychological thrillers, a revenge epic and even grindhouse porn. Like many grindhouse films of that era, Rondo doesn’t have much of a budget. The effects are practical albeit some occasionally over the top – whoever planted the squibs for the final confrontation had a field day. Therefore, a film like this has to rely on a decent plot – which it has. It also has to rely on decent performances and there we get a little bit dicey as the acting tends to be stiff, perhaps by design. It also has to rely on graphic sex and violence – and the film gets full marks for that. Barnhardt is obviously not afraid to push the envelope on that score…Fans of exploitation films will get a kick out of this one. ” – Cinema365

One hell of a ride, a manic, off the rails crime thriller that veers into the surreal and violent, a unique vision that takes some bold risks and backs them up in grand style. The narrative here starts off simple enough, then spirals into unexpected places, then begins to ramp up to the finale, where all hell breaks loose and then some. But Rondo grabs your attention right from the jump, with the bizarre visit therapy session and just goes for broke from there, pushing boundaries and defying expectations. The movie is packed with colorful, memorable characters engaged in all kinds of outrageous activities, some just immoral, others more toward the insane end of the spectrum. Even smaller roles stand out, as all the cast members are given characters with quirks and interesting elements to work with. When Rondo promises sex, murder, and revenge, it delivers on those elements in spades. The movie has a remarkable level of polish as well, with slick visuals and technical elements, good production values, and a capable cast, so this isn’t mere shock value, not even close. The shocks and wild twists are here of course, but you’re also bound to notice how well crafted Rondo is, especially being only the second feature film from director Drew Barnhardt. So if you like unpredictable, surreal, take no prisoners cinema with a polished, artistic flair, Rondo is one you shouldn’t miss.

“The nakedness here is quite vivid, with bare breasts, naked ass, and of course, full frontal nudity all on showcase. And this is very intimate full frontal, so expect to be able to read lips in this case. Not a lot of scenes with naked flesh, but the ones that do appear are memorable and then some. The movie has some violence as well, including an out of this world finale that takes squib porn to the next level. The blood flies in spectacular fashion and while Rondo doesn’t have rampant crimson throughout, it makes the most of the times the violence escalates. And not just the blood, but how the violence unfolds helps add impact and style to those final sequences. The dialogue is one of the movie’s strong suits, with a host of offbeat lines delivered by the colorful characters. Some are awkward, others absurd, and some just out of left field, but the writing here is a lot of fun and the cast is game to make the most of the material. You also get one of the most intensive pre-sex instructional sessions of all time, delivered in sincere, deadpan style to ramp up the humor. As for craziness, the entire movie just feels unhinged and as if almost anything could happen. The strange plot twists, memorable characters, odd dialogue, and more, not to mention the wild finale, all add to the score, but it is the consistently unsettling atmosphere that makes Rondo so unstable.” –MarcFusion

Rondo is an icy revenge thriller with bullets and blood galore……reinvigorates a pulp noir approach into the independent film marketRondo 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.” – ItsBlogginEvil

A sleazy little crime thriller, this homage to grindhouse cinema pits a brother (Luke Sorge) and sister (Brenna Otis) against a gang of amoral murderers who run a depraved house of prostitution. There’s plenty of dark laughs and nail-biting suspense as well as bone-crunching violence, particularly during the finale which calls for Otis to finally even the score. It’s gory and a bit silly but, in the final analysis, Rondo qualifies as a good, old-fashioned guilty pleasure. – Amy Longsdorf, Camden Courier Post 

The film’s finale is…vicious and wicked (not to mention up there with the original Robocop for the effective use of squibs, and a great many of them!) making for a feature one won’t soon forget and will be talking about for months to follow. A spin on the traditional revenge thriller, Rondo offers a great deal to enjoy and proves it’s not what you show it’s how you depict it, how you nestle the ‘atrocity’ within the story and the flair with which you pad it with. Showcasing family core values and morals Rondo is a movie one might possibly imagine seeing on a Disney roster, but obviously never will. But best of all the hype is deserved, Rondo is the real deal! And the gauntlet has been thrown – Beat his Tarantino!! It goes without mentioning, though I shall, that one should catch this at their earliest convenience.” – CultMetalFlix

Trying to figure this film out is like trying to find a penny in the bottom of the ocean…This is one of those films that if think you know where things are heading you would be so wrong. To claim this film fits a genre would be cheating it. This film is a fresh concept. There is no way you can deny this film is not genius in the way it paints itself. ..If you want a taste of the perverse, this film offers a different taste. – WickedChannel

A viciously entertaining slice of cinematic pie from Drew Barnhard that’s a hybrid of revenge-thriller and dark comedy all rolled into this wild and crazy neo-noir, pulpy watch that’s destined for cult status. The story has some twists to it and the characters were all interesting and fun to follow – some more than others. This unique movie definitely has a grindhouse and exploitation vibe to it because it doesn’t get any better than watching a beautiful woman in her sexy lingerie spray villains down with a machine gun. Something else that stands out about Rondo is that every single one of the victims in this movie die painfully which means there’s lots of blood plus some cool music to go along with it. Holy hell this was a fun roller coaster ride! Go ahead and put this one on your watch list because you are in for a treat! – AlienBee

“The characters which populate Rondo are reminiscent of the pulp characters that are synonymous with Film Noir. And though the characters in Rondo are archetypal Film Noir characters. They’re fleshed out just enough, that they never come off as one-dimensional. When it comes to the performances the entire cast far exceed expectations. With Rondo’s standout performance being Reggie De Morton’s portrayal of Lurdell, the ringer leader of a secret society that fulfills fantasy’s for the right price. He delivers an utterly convincing performance that perfectly balances menacing and non-threatening. Another performance of note is Brenna Otts in the role of Jill, a woman who seeks revenge after her brother is brutally murdered.” – 10kbullets

A Tarantino-esque clusterfuck of a movie, constantly wrong-footing the viewer with its unpredictable turns of events. Noir remains its core, but this is a very smart piece of modern pulp, always offsetting its torrid transgressiveness with a deep streak of black humour. The credits’ classically curlicued calligraphy (with the faux-formal addition of the definite article to designations like ‘producer’ and ‘director’), the dry, estranging narration, and the slyly extravagant orchestral score from Ryan Franks and Scott Nickoley, license the viewer never to take all the bludgeoning, bloody outrage and exploitation on screen too seriously, but instead just to enjoy the wild, rollicking ride, while savouring cinematographer John Bourbonais’ exquisite framing and editor Lionel Footstander’s fluid intercutting of scenes.” – ProjectedFigures

“Rondo is a revenge thriller I have been watching quite a few movies lately that pay homage to the exploitation films of the 70’s. With Rondo you have a film which does just that, but which decides to pay tribute whilst keeping the trappings of modern day filmmaking…creates a feeling of moving art with scenes seeming choreographed in interesting ways. This over the top mayhem is where Rondo is at its exploitation film aping best, where it becomes most obvious, especially with what characters are wearing…Rondo is an exciting, darkly comedic revenge thriller that doesn’t fail to switch things up and go to unexpected places in its 90 minute run time. It weaves exploitation with arthouse making for something that visually is very arresting and which in its over the top comically shocking manner became something that was entertaining to watch. TheRottingZombie

“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…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.  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.  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. ” – HKFilmNews

Rondo most certainly is a film that’s not easy to forget as it explores the evil depths of the human soul in a very stylish, sometimes even humorous way, with some extra-helpings of violence attached to it. And what makes this film more than just cheap exploitation is its excellent imagery that never lets blatant realism get in the way of its rather beautifully composed tableaus. Also despite its subject matter that spells sex and violence in bold letters, the film, though explicit enough, avoids mere sensationalism, instead trusts the strength of its narration. And add to that a very solid cast and you’ve got yourself a rather unusual little thriller, one which certainly enough isn’t for everyone but which genre fans are sure to enjoy.” – SearchMyTrash

“Drew Barnhardt’s Rondo is a darkly sexual, craftily stylized and wildly entertaining crime and revenge melodrama. It is also totally twisted….We are reminded of the exploitation classics of the Sixties and Seventies. ” –Reviews by Amos Lassen

“Amazingly blackly funny and extremely violent!” – Beneaththeunderground.com

“Rondo harks back to the exploitation classics of the Sixties and Seventies…From the design of the sets to the delivery of the dialogue, everything is note perfect. Director Drew Barnhardt has approached every shot as a perfectionist and he’s backed by wonderful cinematography from John Bourbonais. Between them they create an intense atmosphere, make everything look appropriately sleazy or beautiful (or both), and hark back to the era recalled by the narrative. Lionel Footstander contributes crisp editing and the performances are seamless. Rondo promises cheap thrills and delivers expensive ones. Its sleaze is a class act.” – EyeForEye

Rondo is a twisted little movie, albeit twisted in the best way. It’s twisted in its story structure, it’s twisted in its depraved dialogue, twisted in its willingness to get insanely bloody and how us something we’re positive it’s not going to show us. It’s a movie made with real confidence, one which feels fresh and exciting as it unfolds – it’s only afterwards that you realize Drew Barnhardt has found a new way to skin a cat.” – Bloody Disgusting

“I have officially stopped hoping that DePalma will make one last film that will put a satisfying ‘period’ on the end of his storied career. Rondo just beat him to the punch.” – Samuel Glass Jr., Beneath the Underground

A Cult Classic in the Making.” – John Higgins, Starburst Magazine

Rondo is a pulp novel come to life, with shades of exploitation, oddball characters and some very confronting scenes. Thoroughly entertaining and you’ll be appalled at yourself for liking it so much.” – Ryan Morrissey-Smith, Haddonfield Horror

RONDO UN-APOLOGETICALLY WRINGS THE VIEWER THROUGH A STYLIZED WORLD OF MANNERISTIC CAMERA, EDWARD HOPPER-ESQUE LIGHTING, GRATUITOUS VIOLENCE, AND A PURPOSELY INTRUSIVE SOUNDTRACK. IT PLAYS LIKE A BARE BONES REVENGE MURDER FEST SPIKED WITH DUBSTEP GREENAWAY.” – Giles Edwards, 366 Weird Movies

“HOW MUCH CAN ONE NINETY-MINUTE FILM REASONABLY DO WITHIN ITS TIME FRAME? CAN A FILM SUCCESSFULLY GO FROM AWKWARD LAUGHS TO GORE, FROM FEMMES FATALES TO OTT-ULTRAVIOLENCE, AND FROM SLACKER HUMOR TO SHOCK? RONDO BELIEVES IT’S NOT ONLY POSSIBLE, IT’S ALL PART AND PARCEL OF ITS OVERALL APPEAL.” – Keri O’Shea, Warped Perspective

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.”
-Lorry Kikta, Nightmarish Conjurings 7/27/2018

“THE PLOT HERE IS SIMPLE, WITH ROOM FOR JUST A FEW SNAPPY TWISTS, BUT WHAT MAKES THE FILM WORK IS THE COMBINATION OF ITS VERY DELIBERATE STYLE AND THE SUPREME CONFIDENCE OF ITS DELIVERY.” – Jennie Kermode, Eye For Film

“A FILM THAT PRETTY MUCH DEFIES CATEGORIZATION… IT’S PART HORROR, PART DARK COMEDY, AND PART REVENGE THRILLER.” – Jim Morazzini, Voices From The Balcony

“PART SLASHER, PART BLACK COMEDY, AND ALL DESIGNED TO HAVE THE AUDIENCE FOCUSED WITHOUT MOVING FOR A QUICK 88 MINUTES, RONDO IS A DOOZY OF A FILM.” – Harvey Karten, Shock Ya!

RONDO IS A PURE EXPLOITATION EXPERIENCE OF THE KIND WE JUST DON’T GET TO SLAP OUT PUTRID PEEPERS ON MUCH THESE DAYS; IT’S HYPER-VIOLENT, DEVIANT, AND DOWNRIGHT WRONG IN ALL THE RIGHT WAYS…” – DanXIII, Horror Fuel

Screenings
2018 - Fantasia Film Festival
2018 - Another Hole in the Head
Awards
Another Hole in the Head - Best Thriller/Suspense Feature
Director Interview

Interview with Director Drew Barnhardt

Q: Rondo succeeds in combining the suspense of a thriller with comic elements – how did you work to achieve this delicate balance in the script and the finished film?
A: I wanted Rondo to be a fun, twisted movie that folks talk about after they see it. And I wanted it to be aggressively cinema-literate. For better and for worse, Rondo is definitely “me.” (my bad). It was also shot on location in my hometown of Denver, Colorado. Rondo is a product of a few elements: My own frustration with the struggles to get other movies made. My personal shame at compromising myself in that process. And my desire to implement all my crazy disparate filmic influences into something that was all my own.  I consider this my four quadrant flick: 1) Bunuel 2) De Palma 3) Peckinpah 4) Pornhub. And then Kubrick, Verhoeven and Hitchcock snuck in there as well.
We all hate to get up early. So, for me, to get up at the crack of dawn to take on a task as difficult as making a movie, I feel that task better mean something to me and better be something that I care about.
Rondo… I got up early to make this movie. And I think it’s the folks who stay up late that are going to like watching it.

Q: Can you explain the significance of the title for Rondo?
A: Number one… As you see in the movie, “Rondo” is used as the password that gains our protagonist admittance into the messed up situation that lands him in this dangerous/kinky underworld scenario that informs everything to come.
Number two… As you can tell by watching the flick, Hitchcock is a major inspiration and influence of mine and, yes, that extends to titles. I love the mysterious simplicity of his one word titles, whether it be Vertigo, Psycho, Frenzy, Notorious, Spellbound, Topaz, Suspicion, Rope and so on. I thought that Rondo had that mysterious Hitchcock ring to it.
Number three… Max Ophuls’ La Ronde. I like Max Ophuls.
Number four… The musical term ‘Rondo.’ Ryan (composer) and I had plenty of talks about this form, but rather than butchering his words, I’ll go straight to Wikipedia: in rondo form, a principal theme alternates with one or more contrasting themes, generally called “episodes”, but also occasionally referred to as “digressions” or “couplets”. This seemed to apply at the writing stage to the structure of this movie.
Number five… I’m a basketball fan and I enjoy Rajon Rondo. Seemed like a good password for our criminals.
Number Six… Fidelio was taken.
Last, but not least, Number seven… “Rondo” is a fun word to say.

Interview with Producer Guy Clark

Q: What was the inspiration for the film?
A: Attending film festivals and by just being huge movie fans, Drew and I were eager to make a film that aimed to entertain late-night audiences.
We were also interested in making a film that spoke to our love for classic Hitchcock and De Palma thrillers, but updated with Drew’s own modern sensibilities. Because we would not have a big movie star in the film, we put all our efforts into making a film that people will love for its suspense and stylistic choices. Rondo isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for a film that mixes humor, graphic violence, nudity, and the formal visual style of a Hitchockian thriller, then Rondo is the perfect movie for you.
Rondo is the type of movie people discover and share with their friends late on a Friday night. We hope people relish the unusual tone and twisted humor. We didn’t want predictable plotting. We wanted the other thing.

Q: How did the film get made?
A: We had been frustrated with efforts to get productions going through the traditional Hollywood channels. We had been roommates in college and had each grown up making nobudget movies in our backyards. Rondo was a chance to get back to that purity of filmmaking while capitalizing on lessons learned from our more professional ventures. Certainly we had to make compromises for budgetary and technical reasons, as one does on any production, but creatively we did not have anybody over our shoulder.

Q: What influenced your approach to the production?
A: Drew and I had noticed a trend in independent films that depended on lazy handheld camera techniques and nonsensical fast-cutting as a replacement for good visual storytelling.
The visual grammar of the Rondo is thought out to elicit specific responses from the audience. Rondo was not discovered in the editing room. Every element was carefully planned and considered through the entire production process.

Q: How long did it take to shoot?
A: The film was shot over 18 days with a small crew of Colorado professionals. It was an ambitious schedule, but Drew had done a detailed shot list for every setup, so there was never a question of what was needed. Cinematographer John Bourbonais brought with him an amazingly tight-knit crew that delivered every day.

Q: What was the most difficult scene to shoot?
A: The climax was the most challenging, because it required several company moves, much of the cast to be present, a transition from day to night shooting, as well as expensive practical effects. We spent the first fifteen days of production shooting eighty-three pages of the script. During the last three days of production we shot a page a day. Up until the last moment, it wasn’t clear if we were going to be able to pull it off. We had lost our key location, an effects house had blown us off in favor of working on a Fast & Furious movie, and some of the cast had to leave a day earlier than planned. Fortunately it all came together in the end.

Q: What is your favorite scene in the film?
A: The most satisfying sequence to film was the scene on the balcony in the third act that involves an intricate camera zoom from characters on the twelfth floor of a high-rise to a character on an eighth floor terrace, and then finally to a character down on the street below. The shot required careful coordination between all the actors and crew to pull it off, and it’s a great moment of suspense and humor for the audience when it plays out in the film.

Q: Who composed the score?
A: Ryan Franks wrote the music with Scott Nickoley. Ryan is also from Denver and went to high school with Drew. They have been collaborating on projects for many years. Often when it comes time for the music to be written for an independent film, the producers have run out of time or money and the score suffers. We knew the music would be integral to Rondo, and that we could not compromise. Ryan and Drew spent over a year working on the score until every note was perfect.

Q: Where was it shot?
A: The film was shot on location in Denver, Colorado. Extensive filming took place in the Washington Park neighborhood as well as lower downtown. The script was written specifically for locations that were available to the production. As the script was being written, we would walk the locations and discuss camera shots. The main house in the film is Drew’s childhood home. The high-rise condo was lent to us by one of our producers along with the therapist’s office. We were particularly fortuitous with some of the exteriors that were shot guerilla-style. A perfectly timed plane passed overhead for one such shot near the high-rise.

Q: What was it shot on?
A: When talking with would-be filmmakers, this always seems to be a common question. Much like the type of knives a chef uses, the camera a filmmaker employs does not ensure quality. However, I am pleased to report we used the Ettinauer 226XL. Made in Holland. Only six of these cameras were ever made. Only five of them ever worked. We had one of them.

Q: Who’s in it?
A: For two of the leads, we called upon two actors we had worked with in the past. Reggie De Morton and Gena Shaw both starred in Drew’s short Herbie! Reggie has a wonderful dry comedic style that fit the character of Lurdell. And Gena Shaw is just damn funny. Gena really brought the therapist character to life.
Brenna Otts and Luke Sorge were both cast locally in Colorado. We were nervous that some of the extremely frank sexual talk in the script might scare away talent, but the actors immediately understood the humor and sunk their teeth into the material.
You can find the entire cast and crew list on our IMDB page.

Q: What’s the running time?
A: A lean 88 minutes or one half of an Interstellar.

About the Director

DREW BARNHARDT grew up in Denver, Colorado. His short film Herbie! played festivals and won five Best Short Film Awards. He also wrote and directed the horror film Murder Loves Killers Too which Fangoria magazine called “an imaginative piece that crackles with energy and wit.”

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Credits
  • Director: Drew Barnhardt
  • Producer: Guy Clark
  • Screenwriters: Drew Barnhardt
  • Cast: Luke Sorge, Brenna Otts, Ketrick “Jazz” Copeland, Gena Shaw, Reggie DeMorton, Joseph M. Veals, Kevin Sean Ryan, Grant Benjamin, Michael Vasicek, Iva Nora
  • Cinematography: John Bourbonais
Product Details
  • Format: DVD
  • Catalog: ART65
  • UPC: 851597006759
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Rating: NR
  • Year: 2018
  • Length: 88
  • Audio: Dolby 5.1
  • Aspect ratio: 1.77:1
Gallery