Kills On Wheels

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Kills On Wheels
"Kills On Wheels is a brutal and brutally funny thriller."

When one is severely disabled, doctors and support workers have a habit of asking what one does for a living. It's almost a trick question: they know full well that one is at a massive disadvantage in the job market, and that wage exploitation is rife. They treat work as if it were the be all and end all of life, and even then, it's a very limited kind of work. Help may be available with doing an office job or serving at a supermarket checkout. Express an interest in contract killing and the conversation will abruptly end.

Teenager Zoli (Zoltán Fenyvesi) is, as he puts it, "a time bomb." If he doesn't get surgery, his liver will crush his kidneys and he'll die of organ failure. His mother's only hope of funding that surgery is to get help from the wealthy father who walked out when Zoli was a young child. But Zoli is acutely uncomfortable about taking money from this man he doesn't know. Wouldn't it be better if he and best friend Barba (Ádám Fekete) could make some money for themselves?

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Enter Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuróczy), a former firefighter with no intention of letting his paralysed legs limit his options. Taking advantage of other people's prejudices to get close to his targets where no able-bodied person would be trusted, he mows down his enemies without mercy and with the promise of a hefty wage. He's in the process of taking out a whole gang, but - as is the way of these things - betrayal is in the air, and he might not be such a good person to be close to when his lucky streak runs out.

All is not as it seems in Attila Till's joyously violent sophomore film, but what's fresh and real is the public acknowledgement of disabled people (played here by disabled actors) as more than cardboard cut out figures of tragedy or inspiration. This disabled critic has always found it curious that able-bodied people see us as weak when, in the course of day to day life, we repeatedly take on challenges and endure pain that seems to terrify them; when they often say they couldn't cope in our position, and talk of killing themselves should they end up there. Till is aware of both the toughness and the inventive thinking that are required to survive in this situation, and uses them to great effect both in his action scenes and in the production of black comedy. As Rupaszov goes about his deadly business, he finds himself faced with absurd additional difficulties that simply wouldn't be there for the average assassin. It is to Till's great credit that he gets his audience to identify with this struggle and root for Rupaszov to be successful, notwithstanding his disability, the violence of his trade or the fact that he's relentlessly insulting to pretty much everyone he meets.

"Boys, want to join us in decorating pots?" asks a support worker after a killing in a car park. The disconnect is delicious. Some have argued that this film ditches political correctness. That suggests a failure to grasp the issues. It simply observes, with accuracy, the way disabled people are treated; presents its characters as whole individuals; and dispenses with the pretence that exists primarily for other people's sake.

This isn't altogether new. There are echoes of The American Friend (more recently adapted as Ripley's Game), but importantly, there's no able bodied person here to start the ball rolling. Kills On Wheels is a brutal and brutally funny thriller that will entertain all kinds of people. It has an unexpected emotional core but this adds depth rather than undermining either its style or its point. When it comes to the representation of disability in cinema, it's a milestone.

Reviewed on: 12 Sep 2017
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Kills On Wheels packshot
Two disabled lads get together with an ex-fireman and form a gang of hired assassins.

Director: Attila Till

Writer: Attila Till

Starring: Szabolcs Thuróczy, Zoltán Fenyvesi, Ádám Fekete, Mónika Balsai, Lídia Danis, Dusán Vitanovics, Björn Freiberg, Dr. Gödeny György

Year: 2016

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Hungary


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