Film: Zero Effect

1998 feature film starring Bill Pulman as Defective Detective Daryl Zero and Ben Stiller as The Watson Steve Arlo.

Daryl Zero, a brilliant but reclusive private eye, traditionally works from afar with assistant Steve Arlo as his representative in the field. Socially awkward and inept but extraordinarily confident in his deductive abilities, Zero keeps himself locked in his apartment where he composes awful songs on his guitar and subsists on a diet of tuna, Tab, pretzels, Campbell's soup, and amphetamines. Zero and Arlo are retained by Corrupt Corporate Executive Gregory Stark to investigate who is blackmailing him and stole his keys. Immediately, Zero is thrown into a quirky world of seduction, intrigue, comedy and double-crosses.

Pretty obviously based on the Sherlock Holmes story A Scandal In Bohemia, down to specific traits that Zero and Holmes share and the eventual resolution of the plot - almost everything in the film has a direct Holmes parallel - although where it doesn't swipe from Holmes, it's doing a Raymond Chandler riff. It's arguably one of the best Holmes adaptations out there, even if Pullman's a bit bland for the role. A hidden gem Cult Classic, and highly recommended for lovers of the mystery genre.

The character of Daryl Zero was brought back for a One-Episode Wonder television adaptation in 2002, though it was not picked up by the network.

This Work Shows Examples Of The Following Tropes:

  • Arc Words: Zero's motto "Passion is the enemy of precision."
  • Asshole Victim: Stark.
  • Badass Bookworm
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Arlo. It does not helps any that Zero asks him to do insane things like flying to an airport halfway across the country to hear a request from him over the phone (which he's giving from the next booth over) to go check some facts on the same place he just left. The opening scene of the movie is Arlo talking to a potential client about the professionalism of Daryl, intercut with him giving a screaming tirade to a therapist about how Zero's eccentricity is driving him crazy.
  • Blackmail Backfire: A running sub-plot throughout the movie is Stark wanting to set one of these up (by arming himself and shooting the blackmailer if he ever meets him face-to-face) because the situation is making him incredibly paranoid and skittish. Arlo manages to talk him out of it once, the investigation gets a fire put under it because of this, and finally it doesn't happens because Stark ends up having a heart attack, forcing the blackmailer (his estranged paramedic daughter) to save his life.
  • Captain's Log / Private Eye Monologue: Seeing as how the narration is from Zero's memoirs but used in context. Think Burn Notice.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Arlo
  • Defective Detective
  • Genius Slob: Darryl Zero dresses like a vagrant, has a weird diet & a messy apartment.
  • Good Is Not Nice
  • GPS Evidence
  • Hacker Cave - the final scene
  • The Hermit: Zero's self imposed isolation is part of his process, getting involved makes one less objective.
  • Hyper Awareness
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Zero's feelings for Gloria make him unable to deduce things about her.
  • Mouth of Sauron: As Zero's representaive Arlo is a good guy example of this trope.
  • My Hero Zero
  • Noodle Incident: The references to Zero's previous cases.
  • Sherlock Homage: Zero himself.
  • Sherlock Scan
  • They Have the Scent
  • The Watson
  • Title Drop: "And though I never would've anticipated it, in the end she did for me what I have done for so many: help solve a problem, first by observation, then by careful intervention... in other words, the Zero Effect."