Daryl Zero, Bill Pullman, is a private investigator, but a most unusual one. Endowed with Holmesian powers of deduction, he`s reclusive to the point of eccentricity, and his dealings with clients are all conducted via his frustrated assistant, Steve Arlo, Ben Stiller, whose wife, Jess, Angela Featherstone, is becoming increasingly annoyed at her husband`s frequent absences on Zero missions. The latest case involves a Portland businessman, Gregory Stark, Ryan O`Neal, who`s being blackmailed. Zero Effect is an original and clever varation on the private eye genre. Writer/director Jake Kasdan - the son of director Lawrence Kasdan - earns high marks for injecting freshness and bite into some rather stock situations. Kim Dickens is a delight as a rather unlikely femme fatale, while Ben Stiller skilfully portrays the frustrations of working for a man like Zero. As Zero, Bill Pullman rather overdoes the charm; he spends much of the film smugly smirking, and you just wish he`d give the character the tension it surely deserves. Actually, the best performance is that of Ryan O`Neal as the blackmail victim - it`s a long time since he`s been able to get his teeth into a role as meaty as this one. Zero Effect is a little over-written, and the pacing`s rather too slow for this kind of mystery movie. But Kasdanr demonstrates with this consistently teasing and intriguing movie that he has a distinctive talent, and I`ll look forward to his second movie with interest.