KILLS ON WHEELS [London Film Festival]

PrintE-mail Written by Peter Turner

What happens when a pair of severely disabled teens write themselves into their own comic book? In Kills on Wheels, Zoli (Zoltan Fenyvesi) and Barba (Adam Fekete) find themselves mixed up with a paraplegic hitman and caught up in a gang war that ends in shootouts, that even the able-bodied would regret getting involved in. 

Zoli and Barba spend most of their time in a rehabilitation centre where, while messing around with a stolen fire extinguisher, the grizzly Rupaszov emerges as if from their fantasies. Rupaszov is an ex-firefighter who was paralysed from the waist down in an accident and is now in the rehabilitation centre after a stint in prison. Is he just a fantasy from their comics, or has the pair become involved in his violent activities, are the lines between fantasy and reality being blurred? 

It’s an important question to answer, but perhaps not as important to Hungarian director Attila Till as it might be to his audience. Kills on Wheels hints fairly strongly that what is occurring is actually just the pages of Zoli and Barba’s comic come to life, but it’s never made completely clear which scenes are specifically fantastical and which aren’t. Arguably, that’s just obvious from the action-thriller elements of the story, but Kills on Wheels could have done more to differentiate the real life of the disabled boys from their overactive imaginations. 

While it’s refreshing to see actual disabled actors playing actual disabled characters and also not having them pitted (and pitied) in a story that is defined by their disabilities, Kills on Wheels could have pushed boundaries further by deciding more clearly on a tone. There are moments of black comedy and absurd humour, as well as scenes of tension and action, but without giving the audience a full understanding on the divide between reality and fantasy, it loses some of its edge. A braver move would have been to make this a straight-up action movie with our heroes really getting mixed up with gangsters and seeing how well they can handle themselves.

However, when dealing with the reality faced by these characters, Kills on Wheels is actually at its most affecting. Fenyvesi and Fekete display a wonderful sense of humour and both handle the more challenging and emotional scenes well, despite their lack of acting experience. Seeing the boys struggle with everyday tasks can be amusing, but Kills on Wheels allows the audience to laugh with the characters, alleviating any awkwardness.

Far from a perfect movie, it deserves attention for its bold use of disabled characters. If only it had committed fully to having its protagonists as action heroes, Kills on Wheels could have really smashed barriers. 


Expected Rating: 6

Starburst Rating:

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