The English title of Kills on Wheels is both self-explanatory and misleading at the same time. Sure, it is a comedy-drama about disabled hitmen, but it’s also willing to explore the more difficult aspects of disability. Writer-director Attila Till spent time working in a care home, and he portrays the everyday struggles of being disabled as passionately as the fantastical violence that his characters get involved in. The story is ridiculous, but it is grounded in a real depiction of disability, which gives it an edge, and makes it much more than a comedy at the expense of its characters.
Zolika (Zoltán Fenyvesi) and Barba (Ádám Fekete) are young roommates at a care home, suffering from serious disabilities. Despite this, all they want is some excitement, or at least some inspiration for the comic that they’re creating. Luckily, this comes in the form of Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuróczy), a recently disabled, former fireman just out of jail. Rupaszov is a long-haired, cigarette smoking beast, a man who can do pull ups with his wheelchair attached to his lower body. The boys quickly befriend him, despite his brash nature, and Rupaszov shows the boys the world of partying.
Soon, Rupaszov employs the boys to help him on a mystery job. This job turns out to be an assassination for Serbian mob boss Rados (Dusán Vitanovics). The boys find themselves in a world of hitmen and gangsters, but also realise they are quite good at it, as does Rupaszov, who continues to work with them. They are particularly useful to the mafia as “no one would ever expect a cripple” could carry out a hit. However, as Rupaszov and the boys carry out ever more dangerous jobs, they must also contend with their disabilities, and the film does not shy away from the toughness of their lives.
Kills on Wheels is so much more than it has been marketed to English-speaking audiences. There are certainly funny gags, such as when Barba looks through binoculars, and we see his shaky POV, caused by his cerebral palsy. However, there are also genuine discussions about love, self-dependence and friendship when you’re disabled, which explore the psyche of the characters. Zolika, in particular, struggles to come to terms with the fact that his father left, blaming himself and his disability for it. Newcomers Zoltán Fenyvesi and Ádám Fekete do an excellent job as the two young kids. Both have real disabilities and they are great as both unphased hitmen and comic book lovers. They are not the only disabled actors in the film, with many of the supporting cast and extras suffering from disability also. There is a real attention to detail surrounding the disability, giving it more emotional clout than a simple comedy would.
Kills on Wheels is very heartfelt, a story of disabled empowerment, told in a wonderfully ludicrous fashion. Attila Till has managed to poke fun at disability, but also subvert traditional stereotypes on the disabled, and even tackle the toughest issues of being disabled. The characters’ struggles are everyday and real in many respects, though they dream big. The film turned out to be far more uplifting than I had expected, whilst still retaining the comedy aspect that it had been sold on.
Ewan Wood | [rating=4]
Comedy, Action, Drama | Hungary, 2016 | 15 | Montage Pictures | Dir. Attila Till | Szabolcs Thuróczy, Zoltán Fenyvesi, Ádám Fekete, Mónika Balsai | Buy:(Blu-ray & DVD)