The World's Most Private Detective
First time writer / director Jake Kasdan's debut; Zero Effect chronicles one pivotal case for the eccentric private detective Daryl Zero
(Bill Pullman) and his assistant Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller). Zero is arguably the world's
greatest private detective, a fact he owes to his deeply nuanced understanding of the human
psyche and his highly disciplined objectivity. Arlo is his fiercely loyal but long-suffering
colleague and only friend. The case is important in both of their lives because it's Arlo's last case and it's the only
time Zero's legendary objectivity is compromised.
There are a lot of parallels and references to Sherlock Holmes:
- The plot itself follows the Sherlock Holmes story, "A Scandal in Bohemia": a private
detective misled by the wealthy man who hires him and outwitted by a beautiful woman
he falls for.
- Both detectives rely heavily on conclusions drawn from observation.
- Each detective plays an instrument, poorly: Holmes a violin, and Zero composes poor
songs on his acoustic guitar. (Arlo has come choice comments about the lyrics)
- Also, both feature an important assistant, Dr. Watson and Arlo.
- Sherlock Holmes stories are chronicled by Dr. Watson. Zero wants Arlo to do the same for
him but Arlo is not up to the task, so there are many scenes where Zero is documenting the
The writing is incredible. Jake made this movie when he was like 23. I'm 22, so maybe it's
out-of-line for me to say the writing shows not only amazing depth and insight but also wit and
class. Jake obviously learned a lot from his father, Lawrence Kasdan, helping him on films like
The Big Chill. Everything about this movie is polished and well executed; obviously a labour
of love that was very well thought out and painstakingly followed through on.
"Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something
specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world,
you're only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances
of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you're sure to find
some of them.
- Daryl Zero
camera work is right on the money too. He's one of my favourite DPs,
and I bet he's one of yours too, even though you may not know it. You enjoy Bill Pope if
you enjoyed the camerawork in, say, Army of Darkness, Bound or The Matrix.
The actor's performances are the bomb. Ben Stiller's delivery is obviously king, cause
that's basically what he's known for. The best parts here are not even his comic scenes though,
the best are his dramatic scenes.... they're so... there are no words. Bill Pullman's amazing
as Zero, playing the eccentric just perfectly short of silly. Even his hair does amazing acting in
this role. Supporters Ryan O'Neal and Kim Dickens are totally solid, and Kim Dickens is
a stone fox.
Bill Pullman Daryl Zero
Ben Stiller Steve Arlo
Ryan O'Neal Gregory Stark
Kim Dickens Gloria Sullivan
Angela Featherstone Jess
Score / Music
The Greyboy Allstars
Some business facts:
Opening Weekend $434,840 (USA) (1 February 1998) (100 screens)
$1.98m (USA) (1 March 1998)
$1.787m (USA) (22 February 1998)
$1.513m (USA) (15 February 1998)
$1.051m (USA) (8 February 1998)
$434,840 (USA) (1 February 1998)
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Castle Rock Entertainment