Forgotten Friday Flick – “Zero Effect”

With iconic actor Bill Pullman getting praises as the titular character in the upcoming The Ballad of Lefty Brown and Director Jake Kasdan’s work soon to be on display via the less-than-anticipated Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, it felt timely to repost an MIA oldie but a goodie to remind folks of the genius side of both Kasdan and Pullman via the best of their past work together…welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick!  Today’s selection, originally posted at my previous stomping grounds back on August 1, 2014, is one of my all time personal favorites.  A combination of an incredible screenplay, decent direction and some career best performances, it’s a film that fell through the cinematic cracks and thus truly earns the right to be called a hidden gem.  Quirky detectives, captivating blackmailers, amusing assistants and all under the arm of wit and charm, welcome to the world of…Zero Effect!

Private detective Daryl Zero is one of the most astute investigators in the business…he’s also a complete mess.  An anti-social introvert with a myriad of problems, Zero is so shut off that he even uses the help of a budding assistant named Steve Arlo to help procure cases.  But it’s the very nature of his recluse behavior that makes him so effective as an investigator.  With an uncanny ability to observe and evaluate every small detail while working a case, Zero proves that even with his ailments he can get the job done.  His latest case sees Zero hired by a wealthy man named Gregory Stark who claims that his safety deposit box keys are missing and he is being blackmailed regularly.  The case begins.

Of course, Stark is hiding pieces of the puzzle and of course, the very quick Daryl Zero is destined to figure them out, but in the end it’s the getting there that truly makes Zero Effect an unforgettable five-star piece of work.  Under the ample direction and especially script by then first time feature writer/director Jake Kasdan (yes, the son of famed The Big Chill Director Lawrence Kasdan!) Zero Effect is one damn impressive debut.  It does shift in tone from being comedic to being dramatic, but in doing so never feels too busy and Kasdan gives the film a unique voice.  And that voice and the character of Daryl Zero are the backbone of Zero Effect, but beyond what’s on the page it’s then all due to the delivery of lead Bill Pullman.

Creating undeniably the best work of his career, Pullman’s Zero is a keen observer, wealth of inner demons and inspired nutburger rolled into one savory character that fascinates from frame one.  Not to mention that the device of Zero reading aloud his own biography is the best use and execution of voice-over I’ve ever heard.  With Pullman’s engrossing drawl and Kasdan’s insightful prose, there’s never been a more natural narration and it’s a huge part of the charm of Zero Effect. The secondary cast is also equally impressive with Ben Stiller playing a funny Watson to Zero’s Holmes, Ryan O’Neal as the desperate client Stark, Angela Featherstone as Stiller’s annoyed gal and especially the charismatic and captivating Kim Dickens as Zero’s new person of interest.  (Her chemistry and scenes with Pullman are among the film’s best!)

I read somewhere that Kasdan tried to get a series of this material off the ground after the film, replacing Pullman with actor Alan Cumming.  It’s not surprising that pilot never got picked up as the power that Pullman provides has always been underrated.  But more especially in the case of Zero Effect as Daryl Zero via Kasdan’s mind has the right words for sure, but his ability to engage comes from someplace else.  It’s the panache of Pullman that makes this one memorable – without it the effect here would indeed be zero.


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

1 Response to “Forgotten Friday Flick – “Zero Effect””

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    THIS MOVIE FUCKING RULES! Great write-up.