The Zeros Movie Review

A wry and independent black comedy, The Zeros turns the road trip inside out with a funny -- yet ultimately bleak -- look at a young man facing impending death in a not-so-distant dystopia.

Mackenzie Astin (The Last Days of Disco) stars as Joe, who is told by his rather flippant doctor he has a matter of days or weeks to live. A despondent Joe throws caution to the wind and figures he'll go on a cross-country trip of self-discovery, ostensibly in search of his childhood friend Joyce (Jennifer Morrison).

Rest assured that the charm of The Zeros isn't ferreted away in my pathetic attempt at a plot description. Rather, as the saying goes, the fun is in getting there. Joe's trip takes him to a nursing home, a roadside cult, a circus, a Texas millionaire's personal playground, and most outrageously, a karaoke-strip-club-roller-disco. Sure, there's not much sense of direction in all of this, but it's an awfully good time.

Writer/director John Ryman fills the film was clever touches of black and devilishly funny comedy -- from the millionaire's habit of blowing up cows for sport to a friend he meets who wears an eye patch because it makes "the ladies" feel sorry for him. His sick and too-near future is also cleverly created from modern day trappings given a sadistic twist. It's just too bad the narrative that holds these outrageous moments and settings together is so wafer thin (and ultimately bogs down the last act of the film with too many saccharine histrionics). Still, while The Zeros peters out in its dying breaths, it's a worthwhile picture in an era of lackluster independent film.

Shot on Super 16 and premiering at the 2001 SXSW film festival, Ryman's film shows great professionalism in its production, from the cinematography to the acting, ultimately belying its low budget reality. The sound design is unfortunately off, but it doesn't detract too much from the wackiness before your eyes. And I mean that in a good way.

Well those definitely aren't zeros.

Comments

The Zeros Rating

" Good "

Rating: NR, 2001

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