Frenchman offering drugs: “This turns the whole world into a ball of glass and makes you rub up against it like a bad windshield wiper.”
American: “Well, I’ll try it anyway.”
This dialogue, from “Killing Zoe,” sums up the entire movie, about a bank robbery in Paris gone horribly, horribly wrong. “Killing Zoe” doesn’t have anything to say, makes no grand gestures, and only develops about two, maybe three characters. Its press kit is rumored to be filled with wild, unfounded claims about the film’s metaphorical meanings, and some critics claim it is a harbinger of a generation of filmmakers who have been raised on too many trips to the video store. Let’s ignore all that and just consider the physical experience of “Killing Zoe,” which can best be likened to a roller coaster or an IMAX movie: there are drugs, guns, blood, insanity, drugs, murder, a prostitute, and more drugs, all while endless Eurotrash techno-beats pound into the side of your head. I give “Killing Zoe” high marks for sucking me in, exhausting me, and spitting me out the other side. I fear to watch yet I cannot turn away. Few movies can be said to so draining and that has to account for something.
An American safecracker (Eric Stoltz) joins a boyhood friend (Jean-Hugues Anglade) for a daring Bastille Day robbery in Paris. Stoltz is soft-spoken and utterly passive—he reminds me of myself—and when Anglade throws Stoltz’s prostitute (Julie Delpy) naked into the hotel room corridor Stoltz hardly raises a finger. Why? Because Stoltz is just that far removed from the world. This attitude also keeps him from protesting when Anglade and his gang take him out the night before the robbery to force every manner of drug and alcohol into him. They visit a nightclub where Stoltz begins to see cartoon-like hallucinations while Anglade makes the kind of wisecracks you don’t want to say around your parents. The next day, still hungover and with their stylish long hair looking quite greasy, it’s off to the bank wearing Mardi Gras masks and touting an arsenal, and, boy how, do things go awful wrong.
Anglade and Stoltz are about the only developed characters in the movie, the former giving hints of being a Marxist revolutionary and underplaying everything that goes wrong with a dog face; the latter being in constant need of a cigarette and spaced-out even before he gets the drugs. Writer-director Roger Avary—who co-wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for “Pulp Fiction”—uses as many wild camera angles as he can get his hands on during the bank robbery and the drug orgy. Some movies use these techniques to no effect and they become a distraction, but here the wild camera work supports “Killing Zoe’s” mayhem, in the same way that the movie’s small budget works in its favor (lots of people die just off-camera, probably to save on the cost of blood packs).
There’s a breed of movie-goer that likes its flicks to be brutal and gleeful, and for the hero to not get the girl in the end. They love movies like “A Clockwork Orange,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Fight Club,” “The Young Poisoner’s Handbook,” “Sexy Beast,” and, when they’re in the mood for some culture, “Titus.” You know who you are, you can’t remember the last time you saw a movie that wasn’t rated R, and you like movies that have the plot point “and that’s when everything goes all kinds of wrong.” Your favorite thing about “Apocalypse Now Redux” is that it went on for over three hours. On full moons or the equinox I’m one of you, too, and if I’d written this review on one of those days, Jesus help me, I would have given “Zoe” ten vaults. But while the movies I just listed are all about something besides the mayhem, “Killing Zoe” is driven purely by manic energy. If you’re not one of us, you should probably stay away from it, except maybe when an edited version is played one Saturday afternoon on UPN, and is only about forty-five minutes long.
Finished June 18, 2002
Copyright 2002 Friday & Saturday Night
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