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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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David Zero (Bill Pullman) is a highly reclusive private detective, who uses his brilliant powers of observation and objective reasoning so astutely that he has become the top detective in his field. He never meets his clients, but sends his sole employee, ex-lawyer Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller) to any face-to-face meetings. Zero is a social misfit, would be guitar playing songwriter and introvert. Yet a man who uses his clear objectivity as a means to blend in, to 'mix with the ordinary people'. Now he's about to take on a case which will test what he defines as 'the Zero effect'. Millionaire Gregory Stark (Ryan O'Neal) hires Zero to find out who's been blackmailing him. Stark wants the matter resolved quickly, his mysterious safety deposit box returned. Zero's search for answers leads him to a health club, a mysterious paramedic (Kim Dickens), who as it turns out, may hold the key to this fascinating puzzle, a puzzle which leads Zero on a trail of self-discovery.

"Kasdan, the 22 year old writer/director, is clearly making his cinematic bones here, with a solid hold on story telling, character study and great doses of humour, to give us an entertaining, thought provoking and memorable film. Pullman’s eccentricity is a focal point, and since he is the only one that is truly eccentric, the film retains its foothold in the real world, giving Pullman’s punches all the more power. Stillman’s straight man to Pullman’s oddball is sufficiently rounded to be not only effective but emotionally engaging, which is critical to the film’s success – it lives or dies on the relationship between them. NOT, on the relationship that eventually develops in the romantic area, where the film becomes a little more predictable and square. All the same, it’s fun, and Kim Dickens is terrific – but so is the entire cast. Kasdan introduces various little devices, such as Zero’s memoirs narrated occasionally as part of the story, which help make the film interesting and multi-layered. It is a unique film, not faultless, but with a great sense of bravado, held up by real talent."
Andrew L. Urban

"Picking up on the current Hollywood vogue for brilliant but damaged misfits, young writer-director Jake Kasdan also borrows a few ideas from Nicholas Meyer's The Seven Percent Solution for this parodic update on the myth of the eccentric Great Detective. Genius and paranoia here are pretty much the same thing: Daryl Zero's unconventional investigative procedures (pointless disguises, elaborate detours, endless mystification) are also defence mechanisms that help him hide from the world. Kasdan's feeling for everyday obsessiveness makes for a low-key version of filmmaking as comic therapy. As spartan as Zero's reclusive existence, most scenes isolate two actors in an emptied out environment (Zero's space capsule-like apartment, with its electronic gizmos and fridge crammed with cans of soft drink, is typical) to focus on small details of awkward behavior and irritation. This understated approach extends to the choice of actors, the normally affable Bill Pullman being no-one's idea of a wild and crazy guy. Pullman initially seems strained and miscast, smirking and mumbling through the role as though convulsed by some private joke. But his remoteness is calculated. Zero and the other characters are developed thoughtfully and gradually, becoming more understandable and sympathetic as the fanciful plot works towards an unexpectedly moving conclusion. Despite some misjudged stylistic flourishes, the film has an unusual, pleasing modesty that's also a sign of confidence. Kasdan is a talent to watch."
Jake Wilson

"Quirky, intriguing, amusing and compelling, Zero Effect is one of those films with a unique slant, which in turn redefines the genre. With an impossibly complex, enigmatic central character, who is eccentric, fanatic, brilliant, compulsive and totally off the wall, the film constantly has you perched on the edge of your seat, never knowing what’s going to happen next. Short scenes are edited and juxtapositioned throughout – informing, surprising and amusing. There’s a sense of the ridiculous that not only brings an offbeat personality to the work, but gives it tremendous appeal. Bill Pullman’s Daryl Zero is so obsessed by the minutae gleaned from observation, that he is unable to live normally. His is a wonderful psycho personality who lives as a recluse amidst fanatic security, displaying a compulsive disorder. Pullman is a standout, while Ben Stiller is terrific as the right hand man, drawn to his employer by his very brilliance and inadequacies. Kim Dickens adds many shades to the piece, while Ryan O’Neal is rather good as the nervous client. The key to the film’s interest and intrigue is in the characters, and Kasdan has coloured them well. While passion may be the enemy of precision, Zero Effect looks at complexity and simplifies it. It is novel, fun and a satisfying film, and NOT one like you’ve seen before."
Louise Keller 

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CAST: Bill Pullman, Ben Stiller, Ryan O’Neal, Kim Dickens, Angela Featherstone, Hugh Ross, Sara Devincentis, Matt O’Toole

DIRECTOR: Jake Kasdan

PRODUCER: Lisa Henson, Janet Yang, Jake Kasdan

SCRIPT: Jake Kasdan


EDITOR: Tara Timpone

MUSIC: The Greyboy Allstars


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes




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