Lawrence Bender and the Unfortunate Cinematic Circumstances of Killing Zoe

Zed, played by Eric Stoltz, was supposed to have a very easy trip to Paris. The safecracker intended to take part in an easy bank robbery. Zed’s problem was assuming a bank robbery could go along without a hitch. A complete disaster ensues when the police surround the bank trapping Zed and the robbery crew along with a total psychopath of a ringleader by the name of Eric. Compounding matters for Zed would be the presence of a teller named Zoe who happens to be a prostitute he met the night before.

Killing Zoe allows screenwriter and director Roger Avary and executive producer Lawrence Bender to once again visit the underworld. Things are never pretty in the violent realm the creative team produces, and they aren’t very forgettable either. The writing, directing, and acting help set this from apart from B-grade action fare. Bender’s production skills shouldn’t be overlooked though. The budget on this film hardly reaches the mega-millions. Yet, the feature looks visually impressive and evocative of classic crime dramas from the 1970s.

In terms of violence levels, Killing Zoe exceeds the excesses of Lawrence Bender’s other crime films Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. Neither of those films shied away from explicit violence and shootouts. Killing Zoe take things to another level, but does not wallow in gratuitous gore capable of devolving the film into worthless exploitation.

The connection to previous films does go beyond the violence. With Reservoir Dogs, the central focus of the film dealt with the aftermath of a robbery gone bad. The audience never actually sees the failed robbery creating a unique narrative structural twist. In Killing Zoe, the events of the failed robbery take center stage. In a bit of cinematic irony, Lawrence Bender produced a film that provided fans of Reservoir Dogs with insight into how the botched robbery might have played out. Killing Zoe may be a sort of missing chapter from that film.

Lawrence Bender didn’t achieve his greatest hit with Killing Zoe, but the film went on to become a favorite among action and crime cinema fans. The film’s following grows.

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