Killing Zoe

Review by Gary Couzens

Zed (Eric Stoltz), an expert safecracker, arrives in Paris to help his childhood friend Eric (Jean-Hughes Anglade) pull off a bank robbery. Offered "a wife for the night" by a taxi driver, Zed is visited by Zoe (Julie Delpy) and, surprise surprise, they connect on more than a sexual level. However, Eric barges in, throws out Zoe and drags Zed off to meet his fellow bank robbers. But they haven't seen the last of Zoe – well, Julie Delpy does have third billing and what's the film called?

Killing Zoe is being heavily sold on its Quentin Tarantino connection (he executive produced, and writer/director Avary co-wrote the stories that make up Pulp Fiction). But don’t be fooled: this is the first of the Tarantino imitations. there’s the graphic violence (in the second half, dealing with the bank robbery itself), the pop-culture name-dropping (here, a brief discussion of The Prisoner), and the lowlife characters. The first half drags badly while Eric takes Zed on a tour of the less salubrious Parisian night-life and Zed gets increasingly out of his head on heroin. After half an hour of this, you start waiting for some carnage to liven the film up. And here’s the vital difference between the imitation and its model: if you take the bloodshed away from Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction you’re still left with superb dialogue, strong acting and a compelling visual sense. Take the violence away from the imitation, and there’s nothing left. Killing Zoe simply revels in its own political incorrectness which is the really PC thing to do these days. Undistinguished, unedifying and tedious.

This film review was originally published in the January/February 1995 issue of the BFS Newsletter (Vol. 19, No. 1).