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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.28%
Worth A Look41.86%
Average: 9.3%
Pretty Bad: 18.6%
Total Crap: 13.95%

3 reviews, 25 user ratings

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Killing Zoe
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Mindless splatterthon."
2 stars

You have to feel sorry for Roger Avary.

He started out as a clerk at the now-famous Video Archives in California, working with (and befriending) the now-famous Quentin Tarantino. The two film geeks talked movies and watched cheesy videos until dawn. And when they weren't renting or arguing about movies, they wrote their own: Avary, it's been reported, made uncredited contributions to Tarantino's scripts for Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, and Natural Born Killers, and he has a co-story credit on Pulp Fiction. This has undeniably been the year of Quentin; roughly 5,000 magazine articles have made the same points about how omnivorously film-literate Tarantino is, how fond he is of movie board games, ad nauseum. Quentinmania has eclipsed Avary's directorial debut, Killing Zoe, which has been noticed, if at all, in terms of its being "a movie by Quentin's pal." (Tarantino served as an executive producer on the film.) Avary must fear that no matter what he does, he'll forever work under Quentin's long, lanky shadow. Well, if he goes on making stupidly violent clinkers like Killing Zoe, he'll deserve no better fate.

Let me be clear: I am not slamming this Roger Avary film for not being a Quentin Tarantino film. I am slamming it for not being a good Roger Avary film. Killing Zoe has some tense, funny moments, but overall this is -- sorry -- the sort of nihilistic bloodfest Tarantino satirizes so suavely. Sitting through the moribund Boxing Helena (another bad gerund film!), the directorial debut of Jennifer Chambers Lynch, I asked myself whether I was being unfair to her by holding her movie to the high standards set by her father, David. But then I thought: Nah, the movie sucks by any standard. Same with Killing Zoe. The characters have no intrinsic interest, no life, nothing to set them apart except a few clumsy pop-culture references. The plot -- a pack of internationally mixed thieves pull a bank heist -- is just a gory hipster rewrite of Dog Day Afternoon (whatever can go wrong does); it's Reservoir Dog Day Afternoon.

The star, Eric Stoltz (as a jaded safecracker), should really come up with a new look; he's had the same grunge-Christ hairdo and goatee for several movies now. And he's been giving pretty much the same nasal, neurotic performance, making me forget how appealing he was in The Waterdance and Mask and (I'm not kidding) The Fly II. Stoltz is Zed (wasn't that the name of one of the hillbilly rapists in Pulp Fiction? Where's Maynard?), a slacker who lived in Paris as a child. His boyhood pal Eric (Jean-Hugues Anglade) has been planning a bank heist, and he wants Zed in on it. The night before the heist, Eric and his cretinous buddies treat Zed to a heroin-fueled paint-Paris-red session. Then the heavily armed thieves descend on the bank, and it's Roger Avary's turn to paint Paris, or at least every available surface, blood-red. Killing Zoe is big on giggly sadism disguised as a moralistic comment on amorality; it's everything Reservoir Dogs was unfairly accused of being. We're meant to experience the violence through Zed's dazed, passive eyes, but since we feel superior to Zed early on -- we judge him by the idiotic company he keeps -- the movie's viewpoint is thrown out of whack.

The movie is also, not coincidentally, boring. Killing Zoe grinds forward to its predetermined splattery conclusion. We don't care about anyone in the movie, not even the titular Zoe (Julie Delpy), a student/prostitute who services Zed in the first reel and then, improbably, turns up later as a teller in the bank. (I'm always bumping into students/prostitutes/bank tellers.) I trust I will ruin nobody's experience of the film by revealing that Zoe is not killed. Just about everyone else is, though. The title isn't just misleading, it's dumb: It looks as if the title was originally Killing Zone and someone left off the 'n'. (The meaning of Zoe as a name is "life," so, like, the movie is about killing life, y'know? Heavy, man. Very French.)

Is there nothing enjoyable in this ugly, scattershot movie? Jean-Hugues Anglade puts a mean, witty spin on his lines, but in no time flat I got sick of looking at him and his gang of scuzzy bohemians. Avary stages a long, woozy Paris-nightlife sequence, with Zed reacting badly to various drugs (it's like an outtake from Sprockets), and you can't tell what Avary is doing; on some level, he seems to appreciate these drugged-out jerks. They do come to a bad end, but it's a movie-ish bad end, a Pacino-Scarface bad end -- a blaze-of-glory bad end, in which Eric, the lead sociopath, takes dozens of explosive bullet hits and then slithers to the floor in romantic slow-mo. Killing Zoe is a pointless, derivative exercise in mayhem for its own sake.

I have a friend who hates movie violence, who told me, shuddering, that an old boyfriend of hers had raved about 'Reservoir Dogs.' Based on his description of it, she's immovably convinced (without having seen it) of its thuggish, unredeemed brutality. And what I wonder now is whether her ex was actually talking about 'Killing Zoe.'

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originally posted: 01/18/07 14:40:45
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User Comments

11/29/09 andrew why does no one like this film...eric and zed are so it to true romance(shit) 5 stars
4/10/09 Dane Youssef Avary brings fire and energy to spare in this grindhouse of a little movie. For guy groups. 4 stars
11/18/06 Shane McCarrick Julie Delpy just gets better and better...... 5 stars
9/20/05 M.N. Hall Sheds some light on how we view our country/city. "I'll show you the real Paris." 4 stars
5/18/03 Y2mckay Likeable Stoltz, Delpy's perky rack, great performance from Anglade. Plus drugs and guns. 4 stars
5/14/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!!!) Just a wee bit TOO gruesome. No need for that, really. Disappointing coming from Avary. 2 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby A Tarantino-wannabe has made a drab wannabe-thriller. 1 stars
1/17/03 mans0n well done film all around, entertaining throughout. would have been better in 100% french 4 stars
1/11/02 Iain Anglin Killing Zoe is one of the best films of the 90's John Hugues-Anglade was creepy and great 5 stars
8/20/01 bizar とにかく、ゴミ(TRASH)以外の何物でもない!デルピー(DELPY)はセクシーでもなんでもなく、ア 1 stars
6/14/01 Poxont Sexy and artistically exciting film. Best Eric Stoltz ever! 5 stars
8/02/00 Sully this movie sucked. guys banging guys - no thanks 1 stars
7/24/99 Hagbard Celine Pointless crap with some decent gunplay and blood. What anal scene? 3 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg Total shit. I expected more than just DERIVATIVE shit from Tarantino's bro. 2 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Fucking rubbish-Tarantino must be very ashamed that he even put his name to it. 1 stars
4/15/99 Jon Jackson A good movie, didn't care for the anal scene, ouch, dig the masks though. 4 stars
12/05/98 tj 30 mins. sex, 30 mins. drugs, 30 mins. violence...fucking PERFECT! 5 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Overblown and stupid!! 1 stars
11/13/98 Jules CaptNish, you Tarantino licker, this was a COOL film! 4 stars
10/29/98 Silent Rob Avary gives you just what you need, but you come away with much more! 5 stars
10/23/98 Negative Creep s'okay 3 stars
10/22/98 CaptNish LAME ASS SHITE!!! There's a reason why people know Tarantino's name and not Avery's... 1 stars
10/20/98 {{{OZ}}} Never got the credit it deserved, nor did Roger Avary. He needs another shot at directing. 5 stars
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  02-Jul-1994 (R)


  02-Feb-1995 (R)

Directed by
  Roger Avary

Written by
  Roger Avary

  Eric Stoltz
  Julie Delpy
  Jean-Hugues Anglade
  Tai Thai
  Bruce Ramsay
  Kano Salem

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