Basically, Killing Zoe is a story of a bank robbery in Paris. As with any Tarantino film, Avery provides no heroes, a lot of bloodshed and a sexy call girl with a heart of gold
Directors that achieve fame and recognition often also obtain imitators. Some are even mentored by the director himself. Such is the case with the director of Killing Zoe, Roger Roberts Avary. He wrote and directed Killing Zoe with the heavy influence of the producer, Quentin Tarantino.
Basically, Killing Zoe is a story of a bank robbery in Paris. As with any Tarantino film, Avery provides no heroes, a lot of bloodshed and a sexy call girl with a heart of gold. Zed (Eric Stoltz) is shaggy American safecracker. He is over in Paris to do a big job with a childhood friend Eric (JeanHughes Anglade). Eric and his band of drug addict misfits plan to rob the only bank in Paris open on Bastille Day. They plan on taking control of the bank while Zed breaks into the Federal vault it contains. Shortly after his arrival in Paris Zed settles into his room. On the suggestion of his cab driver he hires a call girl Zoë (Julie Delpy). After one of the strangest love scenes ever filmed she admits that she likes him because she didn’t have to ‘fake it’ with him. In the middle of this tender moment Eric comes over to pick up Zed, boots Zoë naked into the hall and rushes Zed out to meet the rest of the gang. Avary takes us via Zed through an extremely disturbing look at the French counter culture. All of Eric’s men are heavy drug users. Zed is no stranger to drugs but not in the quantity used by this ratty bunch. They finally arrive at the bank in disguise and take control. As it turns out, Zoë is a clerk in the bank.
Since Killing Zoe is largely homage to Tarantino the bank robbery soon deteriorates into a blood bath. Eric is cruel and unfeeling towards the hostages. He kills to make a point, seemingly just to amuse himself. This robbery should have been on France’s dumbest criminals. Avary as the scriptwriter aimed at another Pulp Fiction but came up with little more than Tarantino light.
Few actors can underplay a role better than Stoltz. He drifts through his characterization of Zed with an understanding of the role. He has played this character several times before, in many incarnations. It fits him like a favorite old suit. Even when expressing his feelings to Zoë the audience gets the feeling that he is just saying the words. Zed is extremely passive when offered unknown drugs. He seems to drift along completely in the sway of Eric. Delpy really is only on screen during the very beginning and end of Killing Zoe. She plays Zoë as a young woman seeking something better for her even if it means prostituting herself to get there. Although she describes herself as a student to Zed she also has a day job in the very bank targeted by Eric and his crew. At the end of the film she acts to save the bewildered Zed by taking up a machine gun and mowing down the crooks. While she looks like a fragile flower there is some determination shown in her characters. The real treat here in the way of acting is Anglade. He is perfect as the near lunatic Eric. His performance is reminiscent of Gary Oldman in films like Leon and Air Force One. Anglade plays Eric over the top, near psychotic. He presents a ‘live for today for tomorrow we die’ attitude.
The production notes presented on this DVD gives some insight to the influences that affected director Roger Avary. While Tarantino was up there Avary considers himself a student of the ‘B’ flick king, Roger Corman. Like Corman Avary has learned how to cut costs. Film the initial and ending street scenes in Paris but the rest of Killing Zoe in LA on a set left over from a previous film. Avary also has a great eye for the use of color in this film. The nightclub the gang goes to before the heist is dark, dreary and devoid of any life. This sets a perfect stage for the drug abuse and the beginning of a descent into madness that Zed finds himself. This is a contrast to the bank itself. There each level of the bank from public area to the lower vaults is shown with walls of increasingly deeper shades of red. This is nicely symbolic of the increasing violence each level will hold.
Unlike the films of Tarantino Killing Zoe has a soundtrack that is mostly Euro Techno synthesizer. While I found this a bit distracting at first it did set a more European tone to the flick. Avary should have permitted more time for the romance between Zed and Zoë, especially since the resolution of the major conflicts is dependant upon this relationship. One night of intense sex and they are committed emotionally to each other? This just took the ‘hooker with a heart of gold’ theme a bit too far. An expository scene of them together again before the robbery may have helped the audience believe the emotional connection a bit more. It would have also added more contrast to the night out with the gang that Zed must endure.
The Killing Zoe disc was only average. The audio was a fairly full Dolby Surround that does a good job of setting a passable sound field. The video was non-anamorphic 1.85:1. There were numerous cases of scratches on the screen indicating the DVD was mastered from a less than perfect copy. I have seen many films far older than this 1994 flick with much better and cleaner transfers. There are almost no extras in Killing Zoe. The production notes are just some screens of text but they did manage to hold my interest while I was reading through them. There are also text bios of the actors and crew as well as a short and a bit misleading trailer. In all Killing Zoe is an interesting movie that could have been better. An excellent freshman effort for a director that holds some promise, a fair presentation of some fine acting talent but overall not the best of the genre. Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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