Kills on Wheels

 

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Disabled protagonists in a strange, well-intentioned work not lacking in depth.

 
Kills On Wheels

 

Kills on Wheels may be a title odd enough to intrigue but it seems an ill-judged renaming of this Hungarian film Tiszta szívvel which, as I understand it, translates as Pure Heart. The new title suggests an exploitation movie and, while Attila Till’s film sometimes touches on black comedy, it is at heart a work which, however unorthodox, seeks to express admiration for the disabled. Indeed, two of the leading actors, Zoltán Fenyvesi and Ádám Fekete here portraying youths in a care home for those in wheelchairs, are themselves disabled in real life.

 

Till, an actor who also writes and direct his own films, was born in 1971 but did not create his own first feature until he made Panic in 2008. Szabolcs Thuróczy, who has appeared in three films for him including a short, is also seen here in a wheelchair, but he is playing an assassin named Rupaszov who is regularly hired by a Serbian mobster named Rados (Dusán Vitanovic). Rupaszov persuades the two disabled youths, Fenyvesi’s Zolika and Fekete’s Barba, to become his assistants and, if these two both undaunted by their disability are clearly the film’s heroes, the older man is also a character whom Till intends us to root for even if he does happen to be a killer.

 

Apply logic and Kills on Wheels is rather a mess: the crime story, somewhat episodic in structure, is at times played straight (and not ineffectively either), but elsewhere it incorporates comic touches and the whole concept is decidedly far-fetched. Nevertheless, sub-plots concerning Zolika are handled as drama (there’s the psychological damage that stems from the fact that he believes that his father walked out on his mother unable to accept the fact that he had fathered a disabled child and, distinct from that, there's Zolika’s concern that a girl he loves is opting to marry another man, one not disabled). As for Barba, rather more briefly he is the one who comments on the problems that the disabled have to satisfy their sexual needs.

 

This last element reminds one of Come As You Are, the Spanish film of 2011 which, with much more concentration on the sexual issue, also told a story about young disabled men presented as a blend of comedy and drama. But this film unlike that one disdains sentimentality and, furthermore, Kills on Wheels is helped by the fact that Till not only gets good performances from his cast but proves to be very adroit technically: this is good quality filmmaking. That the film’s heart is in the right place is never in doubt but, while younger audiences may more readily take it on its own terms, I do find that putting a humanistic message into what is in essence a story that ignores morality creates an artistic conflict. It is just possible that Till feels it too, for he comes up with a late twist that invites us to view the story in different terms altogether - but that is too late in the day for it to solve the inherent problem.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Szabolcs Thuróczy, Zoltán Fenyvesi, Ádám Fekete, Móni Balsai, Lídia Danis, Dusán Vitanovic.

 

Dir Attila Till, Pro Judit Stalter, Screenplay Attila Till, Ph Imre Juhász, Pro Des Márton Ágh, Ed Márton Gothár, Music Csaba Kalotás, Costumes Andrea Flesch.

 

Laokoon Filmgroup-Eureka Entertainment.
103 mins. Hungary. 2016. Rel: 15 September 2017. Cert. 15.