If I saw Killing Zoe when I was younger, I think it would have been my favorite movie. Not that seeing it now changes anything, it’s just I would probably bother people more with it. We oftentimes use movies to further define ourselves, both to others and internally. Some people never move past this stage, identifying completely with certain genres or elements. I’m not going to go on about how this movie perfectly captured that Generation X combination of nihilism and hedonism. Mostly because I’m a Millennial and I can tell you that we’re just as fucked up. No, I will leave that for you because it’s a personal experience.
As the intro was taking us through the streets of Paris, I started hearing Nights in White Satin by Moody Blues. We follow a group of outcast who society deemed undesirable long before they turned to crime and drugs. Just listen to what Zoe has to say about why she became an escort. Another powerful moment related to this will come much later in the movie with Eric and his obsession with money.
Not only this is a gritty and very violent movie but it also features a lot of raw emotions. The character development is magnificent and I feel like I know our three leads in real life. As you probably already know, I usually avoid art-house edgy movies. I just find them so cringy and generic in their delivery, substance, and even style. However, Killing Zoe despite its similar approach cannot be placed in the same category. It has a lot of elements that came together creating a very intriguing and thought-provoking movie that certainly doesn’t seem that way. I also can’t help but comment on just how good the scenes with drug and alcohol abuse were. They were realistic, raw, and not only visually impactful but also captured the feeling of a high.
Zed is a professional safe-cracker who just landed in Paris looking to hook up with his old friend Eric. Apart from catching up, the two of them are reunited by a new heist that Eric has in mind. A daring heist that would make them all incredibly rich. Soon, Zed meets the rest of the gang and they bond over a night of debauchery because tomorrow is the day. The day that will change their lives forever.
The first couple of minutes of Killing Zoe feel very honest and engaging. They show us that you don’t need much to set up a story and the mood. Just a very carefully thought-out and honest approach. The dialogue doesn’t feel like dialogue but like you’re just watching real life. And that’s an incredibly difficult thing to do. After Eric shows up, our journey into the grimy world of crime begins. And although it might seem surreal, it rings of truth. I watched many podcasts where various criminals shared their life stories and what we witnessed here sounds very familiar. The intense friendship bordering on love, sexual love, is necessary when you live life to the max. Your life is in the hands of your friends who must not betray you.
This brings us to the cast of the movie that was simply stellar. Eric Stoltz gave the performance of a lifetime along with Jean-Hugues Anglade. The two of them were so natural and committed that you felt like they weren’t acting at all. Actually, Stolz remarked how he’s an asshole in real life and this movie enabled him to channel his inner being. And Anglade could not get rid of his character so much that he took the first role they offered him in La Reine Margot. The trivia section for this movie on IMDb has whopping 150 entries!
This is a captivating, dirty, and above all very poignant journey to the other side. The pacing is relentless and despite the lower budget, we will get everything we usually get in those big blockbuster movies. Sometimes Killing Zoe does get a bit too artsy and clunky but these are all easily forgivable offenses. It reeks of French noir combined with exploitation and just pure human drama. Avery possibly created a whole new subgenre here and I agree with those who claim that his connection with Tarantino has been an obstacle and not an advantage in his career.
He went on to write the next three movies that Tarantino directed. After that he sort of vanishes from the world cinema throwing a couple of punches over the years. The Rules of Attraction I did see when it came out and that’s the movie I bothered people with. And I also recommend you check out Lucky Day, his latest movie. It will be very refreshing after this nihilistic extravaganza with its humor and high production values. While we’re recommending movies, check out One False Move. It’s not as artsy or violent but it’s got a couple of great characters.
Director: Roger Avary
Writer: Roger Avary
Cast: Eric Stoltz, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Julie Delpy, Gary Kemp, Salvator Xuereb, Bruce Ramsay, Tai Thai
Fun Facts: The deeper into the banks the characters go, the darker the red gets.