Killing Zoe (1993)
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For those who object, be warned there are a fair amount of subtitles in here and a lot of f-words. This was a tough gang, and the lead characters are pretty grubby, they aren't really very likable people.
I like Jean-Hughes Anglade's accent and I always like ogling Julie Delpy, although I've seen her look better. The city of Paris looked good with some nice shots in the beginning and at the end of the movie.
Anglade, as the leader of the gang, was brutal but fascinating. My only complaint was the film was too sordid in spots (drugs, language and attitude). but overall, an entertaining crime film. It gets your attention and keeps it.
I first saw this film about a year ago and then I thought that it was just an OK action pick with violence and great dialogue. I didn't see inside the film back then and now I'm very happy to have viewed it again. The main themes in Killing Zoe are friendship and things which can destroy it. There is also strong scene(s) concerning drug and alcohol addiction.
*Some kind of spoilers coming*
Zed thinks that his old friend Eric is his real friend and they are important to each other and can trust each other. Zed soon learns the horrific truth behind Eric and that he is real monster who perhaps has AIDS and is seriously hooked on heroin and other drugs. The end scene where Eric tells Zed that their friendship means nothing to him, is extremely shocking and surprising because throughout the film Zed seems to be important to Eric. In the end of Ringo Lam's magnificent City on Fire (Hong Kong) the main characters have developed a real friendship even though they are on the other side of the law, and the bad guy, Danny Lee, is really worried about his wounded partner, Chow Yun Fat. But in Killing Zoe, the friendship between the two lead men collapses and dies for ever. The director wants to make people to think about the importance of real friends and love between human beings.
The drug taking sequence at night before the robbery is very intense and realistic with all the hallucinations and nausea. The dangers of drugs and other addictive substances come very clear during the infernal film. Even the right minded main character (Stoltz) is about to collapse to the dark side and the hallucinations are pretty disturbing and harrowing and won't leave you after the film has ended.
So, after second viewing, I found this film a very great and unforgettable experience which is definitely not just another "art house violence" flick. In fact, I prefer this as much as Reservoir Dogs, which has same kind of themes as Killing Zoe, but omits the drug content.
But it is pretty sad to see that the final R-rated version doesn't look as Roger Avary wanted it to look. There are numerous scenes in which it is easy to see that those scenes were intended to be longer or more effective. I'm not talking only about violent scenes but also those hallucinations may have been stronger without the R restrictions. So I am waiting for the unrated DVD release to come from some label sometimes in distant future..
Highly recommended for fans of Quentin Tarantino, Peter Medak (Species 2 excluded!) and other interesting filmmakers of the 90's in this genre.
Recommended for all fans of action films
P.S. About the Tarantino lovin' geeks thing: I like Tarantino acting, but when it comes to directin Avary or Rodriguese are surely the winners, and make true art
All the same, this is a good crime thriller, and very much a part of the early nineties violence invasion. Worth checking out if you're a Tarantino fanatic, or if you really have nothing else to do.
There are several themes that are explored quite well in this film and those are what make the story intriguing - not the ultra-violence or the seamy underground culture.
1) The relationship between Eric (French) and Zed (American). This is an exploration between European and American cultures. Americans are presented as stiff, boring and pompous (especially the scene with the American tourist in the bank) while the French are portrayed as being "C'est la vie" and "Carpe Diem" at its ultra-worst. The friendship comes to a point where these differences are not resolved and result in a betrayal at its most bitter. The drugs, the impromptu sex and so on, and Zed's passive involvement in these things is all part of a subtle message about cultural differences.
2) The depth of love and how actions speak louder than words. Eric started out professing a great deal of love for Zed. Yet betrayal resulted as greed and drug-induced delusions came to a head. Zoe professed a similar love for Zed - and she proves it - by saving Zed (despite his passivity when Eric throws her out). Love was a major theme in the film.
3) AIDS - it was mentioned that Eric had AIDS and this might have been the root of his fatalistic attitudes. I find it interesting that the sex scene was interspersed with clips from Nosferatu. The theme of vampirism being sexual is not new - however, it makes you wonder if Zoe might not also have AIDS herself - she was a prostitute. This might be the explanatin for the seeming misnomer of the title.
All in all - the movie had a class uncommon to these types of heist-gone-wrong films. I took the heist to be a plot mechanism rather than the actual point of the story. But hey - that's just me.
I liked the film for its layered themes, and its camera work and great score. The characters were great, the writing was solid and the ending was good. I gave it a 9/10 - but I recognize that most people didn't get the same thing from the film that I do.
Killing Zoe gains credibility for being very entertaining, and you'll wonder where the time has gone while watching this movie, which is never a bad thing. Of course, it is, in effect, a waste of time; but if you enjoy watching it, it hardly matters. The film is continually unpleasant, with violence, gore, swearing, nudity and the rest of the gang featuring heavily, which will no doubt offend some - but certainly not me. Eric Stoltz takes the lead role, and does well with it; even if he does never really impress, and at times even looks uncomfortable. Julie Delpy is the title character and she doesn't impress either; she'd prove her worth a year later in Before Sunrise, of course, but here she doesn't really impress. Jean-Hugues Anglade, who does impress as the lead villain, steals the show. He's loud, brash and over the top; making every scene he's in a delight. Avery's direction is solid for most of the movie, but he appears to get a little big headed towards the end when he throws in lots of little tricks that aren't all that good. However, this is certainly a decent movie and fans of Tarantino will probably think "it's awesome!"
Pay close attention to the fact that her character, in the films bloody climax, has her hand slashed by a crazed French bank robber. He is then smoked by at least a dozen tactical response police officers.
At the end of the film Julie Delphi is in a car with stoltz, who mistakenly thinks Delphi has been hit or injured, she replies that the blood is not hers, and ofers to show 'Z' the sights of Paris.
Earlier in the film the leader of the French gang relates to Z the fact that he has contracted HIV (or in his words Aids) therefore there is a better than average chance that Delphi contracted the virus from him during the aforementioned bloody climax.... Hence the title Killing Zoe!