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Kills On Wheels

Kino // Unrated // January 16, 2018
List Price: $34.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted April 13, 2018 | E-mail the Author

Thoroughly original with a strong emotional core, Attila Till's Kills on Wheels (2016) offers a clever one-two punch of action and comedy with unlikely protagonists: two disabled men who end up working for a paraplegic hitman. Teenagers Zoli (Zoltán Fenyvesi) and his best friend Barba (Ádám Fekete) are aspiring comic book artists largely confined to a therapy center: Zoli is in particularly bad shape, with a spinal condition that will eventually kill him without surgery. But despite his mother's wishes, Zoli doesn't want it: the surgery will be funded by his father, who abandoned the family when he was young. But while Zoli has seemingly given up, new patient Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuroczy) has a rowdy lust for life -- even though he lost the use of both legs during his time as a firefighter.

Their initial connection is surface-level, from a distance: Rupaszov's exploits provide inspiration for Zoli and Barba's newest comic book, but their first real interaction outside the facility finds the older Rupaszov taking the two younger boys under his wing. Turns out it's a quite large wing: wheelchair-bound Rupaszov works on the side as a hitman for local mafia boss Rados (Dusán Vitanovics), using his physical handicap as an unlikely advantage when approaching his targets. As the young men spend more time with Rupaszov and go deeper into the world of his violent profession, Zoli finds a new outlook on live that's far removed from the depressing, day-to-day routine of bingo and craft-making at the therapy center. Yet Rupaszov has his own demons lurking below the surface, just between the flashbacks to his former life as a firefighter and the reality that former girlfriend Evi (Lídia Danis) is set to marry another man.

It's a lot to keep in the air and, combined with the sporadic over-the-top bloodshed and (for many viewers) foreign environment of being confined to a wheelchair, an almost absurdly unorthodox premise -- yet somehow, Kills on Wheels works exceptionally well as an emotional character drama and unpredictable action-comedy. The lead performances are absolutely top-notch, allowing us to connect with their characters even though built-in moral judgment tells us otherwise. Meanwhile, the violence -- which might otherwise feel almost completely out of place -- pairs nicely with the boys' aspirations as comic book artists: the film is also home to a number of clever visual touches and scene transition that also lend some emotional weight to the proceedings, while also letting us get a little further inside the minds of both "outsiders". Rupaszov makes for an entirely believable and magnetic father figure, and his own plight -- physical or mental, take your pick -- is completely relatable, even if you've never lost the love of your life or used a catheter regularly.

While I can't imagine everyone going along for the ride, Kills on Wheels is much more accessible than its premise implies, even if you're not usually a fan of subtitled movies. (It turns out that combining great characters, strong performances, and an entertaining story makes for a movie, no matter the language.) Luckily, Kino Lorber's Blu-ray makes it easy for die-hard fans and curious newcomers alike to enjoy this one -- but while Kills on Wheels gets the benefit of a rock-solid A/V presentation, the extras come up a little short.

Presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the moody and typically overcast Kills on Wheels looks great on Blu-ray with a strong and stable 1080p transfer from start to finish. Image detail and textures aren't always as readily apparent due to the lack of sunshine and bright indoor lights, but shadow and contrast levels hold up nicely with a consistently smooth appearance. Digital imperfections, including compression artifacts and excessive noise reduction, don't seem to be an issue at all. The color palette is largely muted with a few notable exceptions, and skin tones seem appropriate given some of the unusual lighting choices on display here. Overall, no major complaints -- American fans should appreciate having this little gem in high definition without the need to import.

NOTE: The images on this page do not necessarily represent the Blu-ray under review.

The audio, as usual for a recent Kino release, is presented in either DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or 2.0 (both Hungarian), with the former representing Kills on Wheels' original theatrical mix. It's a surprisingly lively effort at times, especially once the music kicks in: occupying almost every channel with subtle -- and not-so-subtle -- panning effects, it's typically jarring in a good way and adds a great deal of energy to many scenes. Dialogue, typically anchored right up front, is cleanly recorded with no obvious drop-outs, defects, or volume leveling issues. Action sequences, though few and far between, ramp up nicely with forceful sound effects and venture into the rear channels as well. Overall, this is a quality mix that's supported perfectly on Blu-ray, so fans and first-timers alike should be pleased. Optional English subtitles are included during the main feature and extras for translation purposes only.


Not much to say here -- the interface is plain and functional, with quick loading time and access to chapter selection, audio/subtitle setup, and extras. This one-disc release arrives in a standard non-eco keepcase with poster-themed cover artwork and no inserts.

The extras are disappointingly light, but fans will certainly want to give them a quick once-over. A very short Making-Of Documentary (6 minutes) is promotional in nature but provides a quick overview with cast and crew input, while a trio of Deleted Scenes (7 minutes total) explore brief sub-plots but doesn't add anything major to the story. Finally, we get the film's Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes).

A thoroughly unconventional but entertaining foreign drama, Attila Till's Kills on Wheels serves up a handful of great characters stuck in the middle of a world that might be foreign to a lot of viewers -- and that's not even considering the cultural barrier. Featuring wonderful and at times magnetic lead performances, a thin layer of mystery, a few clever twists, and a good amount of visual flair, Kills on Wheels is certainly one "off the beaten path" but perfectly accessibly to anyone who finds its premise halfway intriguing. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray offers a decent amount of support -- we mostly just get a strong A/V presentation, as the light bonus features aren't really much to speak of. Firmly Recommended to established fans and curious newcomers, though a rental might be enough for some.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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