Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 116 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Bill Pullman, Ben Stiller, Ryan O' Neal, Kim Dickens.
Tag-line: "The world's most private detective."
Best one-liner: "I don't think he's ever kissed a girl. He's like thirty-something years old."
"There aren't evil guys and innocent guys. It's just... It's just... It's just a bunch of GUYS." ZERO EFFECT is a sharp, rapid-fire, late 90's reimagining of Sherlock Holmes as 'Daryl Zero,' a Tab-swiggin', atrocious acoustic guitar-playin', occasionally agoraphobic, and exceptionally needy bundle of nerves aptly portrayed by Bill Pullman.
His Watson is an incredibly put-upon Ben Stiller (before he became a mere Hollywood finger puppet), who, by virtue of his sidekick-y duties, must respond to Zero's every excruciating beck and call.
The bulk of the story is culled straight from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (in particular, the story "A Scandal in Bohemia"), right on down to Holmes' monographs for future generations, the strung-out multi-day benders, and an 'Irene Adler'-style feminine foil ("THE Woman"). Unfortunately, much like MILLER'S CROSSING (the Coens' masterful Dashiell Hammett facsimile), no credit is given to the source material. ...Are you serious?!
Regardless, this is a well-spun tale: intricate, well-acted, and consistently compelling. The mystery's supporting players include a pompous, frazzled tycoon played by Ryan O'Neal:
and a personable but inscrutable medic portrayed by the underrated Kim Dickens (Joanie on DEADWOOD, Cassidy on LOST). Beginning with simple blackmail, a set of missing keys, and the realization that "You can't buy silence- you can only rent it," the threads mingle and interweave with one another, and by the time we reach the denouement, the whole has succeeded in being greater than its parts, which, in the detective genre, is really all you can ask for.
An auspicious debut for writer/director Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence), who would go on to both outdo (THE TV SET) and embarrass (WALK HARD) himself. Four stars. (Note: later revisited- by Kasdan- as a failed TV pilot, starring Alan Cumming in the Daryl Zero role.)