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Killer Diller (2004)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, Music  |  March 2004 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 343 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 5 critic

A guitar playing car thief meets an autistic savant piano player, and together they transform a group of reluctant halfway house convicts into The Killer Diller Blues Band.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Taj Mahal ...
J.R. Cox
Dr. Gwen Bradley
Lawrence Lowe ...
Jared Tyler ...
Davenia McFadden ...
Deputy Rhodell Larkin
Barge Captain


A guitar playing car thief meets an autistic savant piano player, and together they transform a group of reluctant halfway house convicts into The Killer Diller Blues Band.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Trouble brought them together. The music set them free.


Drama | Music

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some language

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

March 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bottleneck  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


See  »

Did You Know?


Niki J. Crawford (Shanita) on vocals, and 'Lawrence Lowe' (Lonnie) on drums, played all the musical parts themselves. See more »


Remake of The Car Kid (2002) See more »


Judge Boushay's Blues
Written by Furry Lewis
Arranged by Tree Adams
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

interesting film but inaccurate towards autism
22 March 2004 | by (Austin, TX) – See all my reviews

First and foremost this film is about the blues and the story of a juvenile

delinquent stuck in a baptist halfway-house who must play in a sappy christian band with fellow halfway-house delinquents when they really just want to play the blues. In this respect, the film was interesting and relatively well made. The story arc was laid out plain and predictable, but still enjoyable enough.

My criticism of the film comes when the film's autistic character Verne enters the story as a piano prodigy with an affinity for driving an invisible fantasy car. To me, this portrayal of autism is marred by typical on-screen half-truths that breed ignorance in understanding this unfortunate disorder. I will state plainly,

however, that I am certainly not an expert in defining autism, nor do I know any autistic people. However, it is clear to see that Killer Diller was not accurate. They started with trueish conceptions of autism: that those who have it have

communication disorders, preoccupation with fantasy, repetitive acts and

attachment to objects.

However, Verne, the autistic character in this film, was more less portrayed as a late-teens autistic child who has apparently never received significant treatment for his condition and thus he is basically just a socially awkward kid who drives an invisible car, shakes all the time, has to pee all the time, and goes beserker when anyone questions his "rocking." But in the end, with just a little bit of socializing and positive feedback about his piano skills, Verne is another autism success story, able to at once overcome what would have been severe speech

impediments, years of social disfunction and other problems all without

treatment, therapy or any real help.

The problem with this is that it looks like the film makers just watched Rainman and watered down the formula. All autistic children, of course, will overcome their most severe problems sometime in adulthood through random coincidence

and socialization. Afterall, their speech impediments are never really all that limiting, really just idiosyncrasies to be overcome with a few laughs. But this is resonable since all autistic people are really just idiot savants in hiding.

Rainman is a counting genius and Verne from Killer Diller is a piano prodigy.

This, to me, is dangerous, the concept of always simplifying disorders into cute, manageable characters who can overcome their "hang-ups" in 90 mins or two

hours. I'm not saying either cases are inconceivable, but the sad truth is that the communication problems caused by autism are typically overcome after

considerable work with a doctor, etc. from EARLY childhood. Verne, especially, is a case that in which the character is supposedly not treated or not thoroughly treated at all and can suddenly overcome speech impediment once he accepts

his surrounding social situation. He really has no vocabulary or pronounciation problems, just a little stumbles here and there, a few quirky repeats, a few off- kilter statements, a few simplistic, childish speeches. I think that if Verne was real, he would unfortunately never be able to carry on a conversation with

typical language. His chances of being a piano prodigy wouldn't be too

excellent....okay, you get the idea.

One last criticism: the acting of Verne in this film was not very strong. I realize this was a low budget feature with no real "name" actors attached, etc. However, Dustin Hoffman is an accomplished actor who takes his character studies to the limit. His taste for reseach and observation/immitation almost always brings

believability-- at least a considerable degree--to his roles, Rainman being no exception. In this case, the actor to play Verne seemingly went to little more trouble then to take cues from the director just before the take. "Ok, actors ready. Verne, umm...., rock back and forth....and act like you need to go to the

bathroom. Okay? Okay. Roll Sound. Roll Camera."

And so on... anyway, I honestly don't know how much research went into the

role of Verne, and it very well may have been treated with care. But I honestly didn't get that impression. Verne's place in the film ranged from comic relief to agency for change for the main character to superficial change into a sociable, well-adjusted guy. I just didn't think he was treated with respect. The only

mention/serious handling of his condition was with a doctor of sorts who spoke on his autism only in passing. If you wanted to leave this film as is, why not just cut that scene and claim that Verne is just a kooky, weird guy instead of a

character with autism, a guy who would have been dealing with a serious

condition all of his life and probably wouldn't have come out so socially apt.

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