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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Killing Zoe (1994)

"Hey, Zed. I'll kill you. It means nothing to me, our friendship, man."
- Eric (Jean-Hugues Anglade)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: November 29, 2000

Stars: Eric Stoltz, Julie Delpy, Jean-Hugues Anglade
Other Stars: Gary Kemp, Kario Salem, Bruce Ramsey
Director: Roger Avary

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (language, nudity, violence, sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:35m:49s
Release Date: August 15, 2000
UPC: 012236604990
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B-B-C- C-

DVD Review

Killing Zoe stars Eric Stoltz as Zed, an American safecracker called back to Paris by his old friend and partner-in-crime Eric (Jean-Hugues Anglade). Zed meets an art student named Zoe (Julie Delpy) who is working her way through school by working a day job and turning tricks after hours, and the two spend an idyllic night together before he goes to "work" with Eric. Eric's plan to rob the only major bank open on Bastille Day begins to go awry when his gang of drug-addicted thugs loses control of the crowd; as the situation deteriorates, Zed continues to work on opening the bank's safe. Zoe turns up as a bank employee (her day job) and manages to escape downstairs in the confusion. When police surround the building, Eric turns against Zed and Zoe, attempting to kill the lovers in a heroin-induced frenzy.

Writer/director Roger Avary (who co-wrote Pulp Fiction) takes this basic guns-and-money plot and turns it into a stylish independent film, bloody and energetic. Violence punctuates the film's dramatic moments (with gore makeup effects by horrormeister Tom Savini), but Avary directs these moments with restraint, leaving the most graphic brutalities largely to the imagination. The film's cinematography and design is fairly kinetic, with effective if heavy-handed use of color in the sets, but most of the film's energy is generated by its lead performances. Jean-Hugues Anglade is frighteningly intense as Eric, an ambitious, charismatic criminal reduced by his addiction to madness, unpredictability and nihilism. Eric Stoltz counters Anglade's energy with a subdued, intelligent performance—Zed's dismay at the violence his one-time friend Eric inflicts on others is clear, and we end up rooting for him despite his essential passivity. Julie Delpy is unexpectedly strong as Zoe, perhaps the most complex and surprising character in the film despite her limited time onscreen. And a supporting cast of tough-looking thugs and terrified bank employees and customers lends scale and credibility to the story (look for porn star Ron Jeremy Hyatt in a brief, silent cameo).

Avary's script rises above its exploitative subject matter in several key scenes, with unexpectedly rich dialogue and character detail, and the ending is predictable but well-written enough to skirt cliché. Killing Zoe is not for everyone; it's a dark, unsettling film, rarely leavened by humor, and some will interpret it as a fatalistic cinematic celebration of violence. But many low-budget, independent first features have traveled the same path, before and after Killing Zoe; one can't help seeing echoes of Reservoir Dogs and Dog Day Afternoon here. It's to Avary's credit that his film still manages to seem original, with enough fresh moments to make it well worth a look.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Killing Zoe is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio with an anamorphically enhanced transfer. The image is slightly soft, and the source print has a few bits of single-frame damage here and there. Shadow detail is inconsistent—most of the time it's quite good, but there are a few shots where detail gets lost in large areas of black. This effect may very well be intentional; Avary uses stylized blurring and stretching in some shots for dramatic effect, but the lack of shadow detail in a handful of shots induces some frustration and eyestrain. Color is generally solid, not oversaturated but capturing the film's heavy use of red quite nicely, and there are no distracting artifacts aside from some dot crawl around the edges of the opening credits. Imperfect but perfectly watchable.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Artisan presents Killing Zoe in its original Dolby Stereo (2.0 Surround) mix, largely in English with some French (not always subtitled) here and there. The track features decent bass and a few subtle surround effects, but dialogue is occasionally muddy or poorly balanced against the background score. The mix is front-heavy with limited dynamic range; it's perfectly serviceable, but often fails to match the film's visual energy.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Artisan's Killing Zoe disc features an array of standard supplements; picture-menu chapter stops, bios and filmographies (organized by job function) for seven cast members and five filmmakers, six well-written text screens of Production Notes, and the film's original trailer in 1.33:1 open-matte full-frame and Dolby 2.0 audio. These extras are all competently presented, but the package is disappointing overall—a Roger Avary commentary track was announced some months prior to the film's DVD release, but it's nowhere to be found here. Also, the film's English subtitles are provided only for "important" French dialogue, making for a somewhat incomplete experience, and French-speaking viewers will be disappointed that the burned-in subtitles cannot be switched off. Not a bare-bones disc by any means, but still below average.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Killing Zoe is a derivative but vivid independent film that's worth seeing for its energy and strong performances. Artisan's DVD features a competent but unspectacular transfer, supported with average supplements. Not the definitive Killing Zoe disc many were expecting, but worth a look.


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