Two young disabled men working together on their own comic book, wheelchair user Zoli (Zoltán Fenyvesi) and Barba (Adám Fekete) who has cerebral palsy, find life imitating art and their lives turned upside down when they meet paraplegic ex-convict Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuróczy) and are drawn into his exciting and dangerous world.

A former fireman paralysed from the waist down, the hard-drinking and self-destructive Rupaszov is fresh out of prison, working as a hitman for ruthless Serbian gangster Rados (Dusan Vitanovic), his enemies underestimating the wheelchair-using assassin, dismissing him as a useless cripple right up to the instant he puts a bullet in them.

Initially befriending the boys to gain Barba’s services as a driver, Rupaszov warms to the two young men, takes them under his wing, teaching them not just his deadly trade but how to drink, how to talk to girls, how to be a man, even as he comes to rely on their help in planning and carrying out a series of increasingly more difficult, more violent hits. Time is running out however for Zoli who desperately needs spinal surgery but is too proud to ask the rich father who abandoned him as a child for the money while Rados doesn’t like loose ends and orders Rupaszov to kill his young accomplices…

Engaging, violent and blackly comic, Kills On Wheels is a welcome, and very European, riposte to the likes of the cloyingly offensive, crocodile tearjerker Me Before Euthanasia, daringly suggesting that not only do disabled people deserve to have lives but that they can be more than just plot devices to aid the redemption/empowerment of non-disabled characters, Till empowering his characters and championing their desire to live their lives, however messy, neither consecrating or condescending.

While the wily Rupaszov is played by the charismatic, non-disabled Thuróczy (White God), Kills On Wheels other protagonists are both played by actors living with disabilities, Fekete an actor, writer and director with the TAP Theatre Company, the talented and handsome Fenyvesi, a disability activist and social media star, Till employing a long rehearsal period to allow the three actors to build a rapport, a chemistry that crackles onscreen, Thuróczy teaching the younger, less experienced actors to work the camera, Fekete and Fenyvesi schooling the actor to convincingly play a character with spinal injuries.

But quite apart from his sensitive direction and progressive casting, writer/director Till never forgets he’s essentially making a genre flick, crafting some pleasingly violent shootouts, a nail-bitingly tense assassination in a public square and some laugh-out loud, darkly comic beats, cinematographer Imre Juhász finding inventive ways to shoot much of the film from the perspective of a wheelchair user.

A sweetly sour mash-up of Luc Besson’s Leon and Rubin and Shapiro’s Murderball, Kills On Wheels is a funny, violent, refreshingly politically incorrect tale of empowerment and friendship that never treats its disabled protagonists as a right-on gimmick.

Movie Review: Kills On Wheels
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