Kills on Wheels is director Attila Till’s surprising and touching comedy-drama take on disability in the character of a freewheeling wheelchair hitman.
Wheels on Fireby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Hungarian director Attila Till’s debut feature intriguingly blends reality with fantasy through the lives of three people living with disability. We first see dishevelled wheelchair user and former fireman Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuróczy) being violently belligerent in a prison fight. Released back into the outside world, he’s a hitman for Doberman-loving Serbian gangster with no conscience Rados (Dusán Vitanovics). Being in a wheelchair is the ideal cover – no one suspects a disabled person – and he can do anything as long as stairs aren’t involved. Even then he has an unconventional way of dealing with them – though only on the way down. And not being able to feel anything below the waist is a surprise advantage when a gangster stabs you in the leg.
After a chance meeting, he recruits two young disabled friends (played by two disabled actors) to help him in his work and make some money in the process. It’s an exciting change for the young men from their life in a rehab institution and they plunge into it with gusto. Handsome Zoli (Zoltán Fenyvesi) is a talented artist who starts to draw a comic book adventure starring a superhero assassin also called Rupasov. He is a wheelchair user too and he needs life-saving surgery for his back but won’t accept his estranged father paying for it. Nerdy Barba Papa (Ádám Fekete) has a form of cerebral palsy but he’s the only one of the three who can walk – and he has a car, so that qualifies him as their getaway driver.
Till has worked as a volunteer with disabled people and his portrayal of disability shows his sensitivity and understanding even though it’s a comedy/drama that gives a rather unusual perspective on the lives of people living with disabiity. It’s fresh, unexpected and bursts through preconceptions of disability and disabled people who are overlooked and live on the edge of society. It enables us to see what their day-to-day life is like and for them to be themselves. Inventive and action-packed, there’s romance, humour, violence and as well as being preconception-busting, it’s a coming-of-age story of friendship, loyalty and revenge.
Kills on Wheels is a snappy title but the original Hungarian title translates as ‘With Pure Heart’, which though sentimental perhaps puts a more accurate slant on what the film is trying to say. The context may be transgressive but the intentions are good, though not at all ‘worthy’ and there’s a surprise twist that blends the two in a very satisfying way, though in some ways this turn may detract from the film’s positive message.
The film was Hungary’s Official Oscar Entry 2016, it was shortlisted for the European Film Awards 2016 and it has won five Hungarian Film Awards in 2017.
Kills on Wheels was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and the London Film Festival and will be released in selected cinemas nationwide (UK & Ireland) from 15 September 2017.