Killing Zoe (1994) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Killing Zoe was written and directed by Roger Avary, whose claim to fame is inextricably intertwined with a video store which used to employ him. You see, that same store concurrently employed a gentleman named Tarantino. The two men met, and started to develop some joint projects. Avary wrote some additional dialogue for Reservoir Dogs, is mentioned as an uncredited co-writer on True Romance, and is considered a source for some of the individual stories in Pulp Fiction, which came out about the same time as Killing Zoe.

Although Pulp Fiction carried Avary's erstwhile writing partner to fame, Killing Zoe seems to have carried Avary himself to obscurity. The IMDb lists no writing or directing credits of any kind for him in the years 1996-2001.

Like Tarantino, his oeuvre is the adolescent masturbatory fantasy.

  • None of the characters bear any resemblance to any real people. 
  • All characters react to things that irritate them by shooting them. That's somewhat misleading, because characters also shoot things they do like, and things which they have no feelings about. 
  • All violence is excessive, and often stylized. 
  • No man has never met any woman who was not originally a hooker. (This eliminates the need for establishing a relationship with the woman, which would normally be essential prior to bedding her.) But when they sleep with those hookers, the girls experience their first-ever orgasms, and are forever changed. 
  • All prostitutes and strippers are beautiful, and have entered that life enthusiastically, and are actually working their way through college. They have all gone to the Julia Roberts school of prostitution, and have probably only had a couple previous clients, if any.
  • It is essential to this genre that the writer/directors have never actually met any real gangsters or lowlifes. No reality must impinge on the fantasy.
  • It is also helpful if the writer/director has never actually gotten laid, therefore eliminating the possibility of spoiling the fantasy with any genuine male-female interaction.
Tarantino has some unique elements in his best work that can make his masturbatory fantasies fun to watch. He has a sense of humor, and a special gift for humorously irrelevant dialogue and trivial background details. His imitators can rarely say the same. 


I guess you might call Killing Zoe "the parts they didn't show in Reservoir Dogs", somehow crossed with a low-budget Eurotrash film.

Eric Stoltz plays a safecracker who journeys to Paris (which is played by Los Angeles) to help an old school chum pull a bank job. On the taxi ride to his hotel, the cabbie fixes him up with a call girl. He gives the beautiful, fresh-looking call girl her first orgasm. It turns out that she only works as a part-time call girl to work her way through college.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1 (contrary to the ads, there is no fullscreen version)

  • no meaningful features

The chum shows up, finds the hooker and throws her out in the hall naked.

The boys then go off to a night of serious drug abuse, from which they awake to head over to the bank. The bank turns into a charnel-house, the robbery a botched disaster of cavalier violence, slaughtered hostages, suicides, etc. It turns out that the chum is dying of AIDS, and has neither regard for any human life, nor fear for his own death. Perhaps the entire mission is his form of suicide. Unfortunately, Stoltz is along for the ride.

Oh yeah, and you remember that Stoltz only knows one woman in the entire city of Paris? Guess where she works? At the bank they chose to rob! You don't think that's a silly enough coincidence? Well, remember she doesn't have a job at all. She is a student who does an occasional trick to work her way through the uni. So we're not just looking at the odds of finding one random woman in a random bank in a city of millions, but rather the odds of finding one random unemployed woman working in a random bank in a city of millions. In other words, you have to believe that OJ is innocent and that OJ's wife was actually killed by Amerigo Vespucci. 

Or maybe all highly-compensated prostitutes also have full-time minimum wage jobs. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Leonard Maltin 2.5/4, Apollo 55/100.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Twelve articles on file

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.2, Apollo users 27/100. 
  • Gross $400,000
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-, barely tolerable to genre fanatics, given a genre of "adolescent masturbatory fantasies". If you don't like that kind of movie, it is unwatchable.

Return to the Movie House home page