Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Movie Log: Zero Effect

The main reason I watched Zero Effect was because the reviews on Netflix were evenly split between people who thought it was a straight mystery (and liked it) and those who thought it was a parody (and liked it). Any movie that could be successful in two different ways like that, I figured, had to be at least worth seeing.

I didn't love it as much as those Netflix reviewers did, but I thought there were good things about it -- and it reminded me that independent film in the '90s was dominated by genre exercises like this (and Bottle Rocket, and of course the Great Originator Quentin), not the quieter, vaguely-dissatisfied-with-my-life movies that we seen today from that area.

Zero Effect is a quirky detective movie, with Bill Pullman playing the quirky detective, Daryl Zero. (See the cutesy deal with the title? I bet there were vague plans for a long series if this one caught on -- Zero Hour, Zero Time, and so on. Zero does not quite have "zero affect" -- see the pun the filmmakers have got going, there? -- but he definitely has affect issues.) Ben Stiller is his agent/lawyer/amanuensis, Steve Arlo. For, you see, Zero is so quirky that he never talks with his clients, and such a genius that he solves any crime almost without thinking about it.

There's some good character acting here, including from Zero's Irene Adler (Kim Dickens playing a character named Gloria Sullivan) and the guy that hires him to set the movie in motion (Ryan O'Neil as the generic Rich Guy With A Deep Dark Secret), but the plot isn't as exciting, detailed, or purposeful. Zero and the audience figures out the general outlines of what's going on pretty early, and then the movie runs around in circles waiting for all of the detail to clear up.

It's a minor detective movie from a decade ago, not a lost classic of any kind. It's interesting to see Stiller as a straight man, and not mugging furiously at the camera. And Pullman is decent at playing a complicated weirdo, though he also has a big bag of tics that he digs into awfully often. If you haven't seen Zero Effect yet, there's no reason to go out of your way now. And if you're looking for the really fun obscure crime movie from a few years ago, the one you want is Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was excellent!

Jeff P.

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