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New Release Review - KILLS ON WHEELS

kills on wheels movie review
Two wheelchair using friends make the acquaintance of a disabled hitman.







Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Attila Till

Starring: Szabolcs Thuroczy, Zoltan Fenyvesi, Adam Fekete, Monika Balsai, Lidia Danis, Dusan Vitanovics

kills on wheels poster

Pop quiz: when was the last time you saw an empowering, or even positive, representation of a wheelchair user on film? It wasn’t when poor old Franklin came a cropper in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (RIP, Tobe Hooper), or when paralytic git Blofeld was dropped down a chimney, was it? That fella in Avatar is CGI’d out of his chair, and Professor X was retconned out of his snazzy wheels sooner than you could say First Class. Who’s left? The kid in Mac and Me? Izzy off Coronation Street?

kills on wheels

It’s an identity issue that must hit Zolika (Zoltan Fenyvesi) and Barba Papa (Adam Fekete), lead characters of Attila Till’s rather wonderful Kills on Wheels (Tiszta szivvel), hard. They’re young lads, both struck with immobilising conditions, who, manoeuvrability issues notwithstanding, also face underestimation and indifference from their society on the daily; if anyone could do with an inspirational role model it’s these two.

Perhaps this is why Zolika and Barba are spurred on to create their own comic book featuring a disabled hero (a moody, Alex Maleev-ish noir affair), and, more pertinently, why they are so eager to fall in with grizzled wheelchair user Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuroczy), given to tough-love rallies like ‘Just pretend you’re the best reject on earth and the pain will go away’, and team bonding exercises like, uh, pushing the lads in a river during a fishing trip to prove that they can swim (‘I’ll help you’!). The fact that Rupa is a mafia hitman, whose business the boys get caught up in, is just a glamorous bonus…

kills on wheels

This may sound like a comic book adventure, but don’t assume a similar ignorance of Zolika and Barba’s peers and underestimate Kills on Wheels. This is a character study as much as a genre pleasure, and the reality of the disabled experience is explicated here in pragmatic detail: catheter etiquette, the indignity of physio, the (understandable, entitled) bitterness. Under examination, Zolika’s doctor speaks about him as if he isn’t there - ‘He’ll need this, he’ll have to do that’ - as he’s poked and prodded (the film’s conflict is partially drawn from Zolika’s potentially life changing surgery, which he both fears and covets). Barba’s disenchantment stems from what he sees as his limited sexual prospects (leading to a heartwarming scene with a sympathetic gang of sex-workers, procured by Rupa, of course).

However, Kills on Wheels is always a movie, not simply a social appeal, and Till balances raw reality with fantastical fun. Imre Juhasz’s cinematography is deft and expansive, using the full frame to imbue its Hungarian Standoffs with grandeur, and when the violence does hit, it’s the sort of brutal and exciting carnage that makes you want to cheer. As the boys are eventually initiated into the criminal underworld, their trajectory is both thrilling and grimly suspenseful - Rupa is a ruthless crack shot; it’s just the fast getaways that are the problem…

kills on wheels

All this and then the ending, which, without wishing to spoil a perfectly constructed conceit is perhaps the most beautiful and heartbreaking twist in cinema this year. Apparently, Kills on Wheels was submitted for consideration for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. It was rejected. The Academy’s extremely poor judgement strikes again! As for everyone else, Kills on Wheels is a winner.

Kills on Wheels is in UK cinemas September 15th.



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