Thursday, 30 July 2015

Killing Zoe (1993)

Roger Avary’s directorial feature debut gets a new Blu-ray and DVD release from Fabulous Films and allows us to once again wonder what this film is really about: is it a treatise on the uncontrollable angst generated by nihilistic despair? Or just a day in the life of some crap French bank robbers?

Eric Stoltz is Zed, who comes to Paris to lend his safe-cracking skills to a bank job. To pass the time in his tiny French hotel room he arranges to spend a few hours in the company of call-girl Zoe (Julie Delpy). When gang boss Eric (Jean-Hughes Anglade) arrives, Zoe is unceremoniously thrown out, and Zed is taken to meet the rest of Eric’s gang. The gang appears to be made up of a collection of drug addicts, lunatics, and one ex-member of Spandau Ballet (Gary Kemp).

The bank raid has been planned for the following day. Zed is shown a quick set of blueprints of the building to be raided and is then encouraged to consume a vast quantity of drugs and alcohol. Then it’s off into the nightlife of Paris, the gang’s wild night ride culminating in a visit to a sleazy basement jazz bar where Eric performs on stage, spouts a lot of drug-addled cod-philosophy, and has sex with another man in the toilets while Zed watches.

After all this excessively hedonistic and somewhat inadvisable (if you’ve got work in the morning) activity, it’s not surprising that the next day the boys are not quite up to par. Consequently the robbery goes a bit wrong and Team Rubbish ends up trapped in the bank with the police surrounding the building and a number of hostages inside, one of whom is (surprise!) Zoe. More arguments, more gunfights and more drug-taking ensues as the gang become increasingly desperate.

Roger Avary is probably better known these days for co-writing Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION and (bizarrely) the SILENT HILL movie. He was also attached to PHANTASM V for a while. Because it was released around the same time as PULP FICTION, KILLING ZOE has been compared to that film, but it’s really quite a different beast. Tarantino’s style tends toward wisecracking likeable villains, whereas Avary’s film seems more an interesting snapshot of a tiny subculture of society. He neither condemns nor condones his characters, but lets the drama play out, allowing us to decide whether this essentially nihilistic bunch of losers deserve our sympathy. That very fact makes it more interesting than either PULP FICTION or RESERVOIR DOGS, and KILLING ZOE is still a film that very much divides opinion. The film culminates in gunfights and action, but it’s the middle act in Paris the night before the raid that is the literal heart of the film.

Fabulous Films’ transfer of KILLING ZOE looks a bit washed out and faded, but having never seen this before I have no idea if this obviously low-budget production has ever looked any better. Extras include a trailer and a couple of galleries but sadly no commentary track. 

Fabulous Films are releasing Roger Avary's KILLING ZOE on Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray on 3rd August 2015

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