The Zero Effect is one of my favorite movies probably because it is based on the great Sherlock Holmes short story A Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film stars Bill Pullman as Daryl Zero (Sherlock Homes), a gifted but strange private detective who is socially awkward and inept. His “Dr. Watson” is portrayed as Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller). Zero keeps himself locked in his apartment where, like Holmes and his violin, he composes dreadful songs on his guitar and subsists on a diet of tuna, Tab, and amphetamines (Holmes’ drug use included morphine and other narcotics).
Paralleling A Scandal in Bohemia, Zero is retained by Gregory Stark (Ryan O’Neal), a wealthy man who hires Zero to investigate who is blackmailing him. During the investigation Zero ventures outside of his apartment encountering Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens). Gloria is based on the character Irene Adler, the only woman who had the wit to outdo Holmes, and he admired her for it. Sullivan is the blackmailer (like Adler) and as the film progresses, they begin to fall in love. While in the end of this movie Zero bests his Adler, because of his love and admiration for Sullivan he lets her go to leave the country with the blackmail money and hide from Stark who alludes to killing her.
This film was sort of a sleeper by mainstream Hollywood box office standards. I give it a rose. What gets this movie out of the dung heap is probably because I loved Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia as well as Zero’s eccentricities. The movie’s storyline is much more interesting than most of the garbage seen in today’s films, network TV shows and porno movies.
I was also glad to see Ryan O’Neal again in something decent since the last time he starred in anything pleasing was Irreconcilable Differences (1984), Green Ice (1981) and So Fine (1981), all three in my opinion classics.
Zero Effect is well worth watching and if you have half a brain you won’t want your two hours back.