By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
From writer/director John Lee Hancock, comes a dark crime thriller that, at one point, tries to set itself apart from other similar films, but fails miserably to do so. Hancock goes through some very familiar motions, borrowing elements from other better detective stories and tries to pull the rug out from underneath it all to surprise and shock his audiences. However, his highly questionable twist choices fail to deliver a more definative message and makes the entire exercise a rather frustrating one. Starring acting greats Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto, The Little Things proves to be an utter disappointment.
Washington stars as Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon, a former Los Angeles police detective who, after a very troubling murder case, has decided to take a break from intensive police work and opted for a much quieter life in the County. While visiting the big city for some County related work, an investigation into a serial murderer catches his attention and inspires him to assist the department with the investigation. The brash and younger Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), the head investigator of the case, knows of Deke’s reputation and skills, and eventually welcomes his imput. As the two detectives delve deeper into the case, ghosts and demons from Deke’s former life resurface, as this new case seems all-too-familiar and similar to the case that derailed his once successful career.
With The Little Things, Hancock has made a movie that starts off compellingly with some palpable tension, dark and moody psychological thrills, but never manages to completely escape the shadows of other similar movies that have obviously inspired it. Hancock also attempts to make a bolder statement about the tolls of police detective work and the impact it has on its investigators. This statement, however, gets mishandled so badly that it comes across as an exercise in “cop-splaining.” This choice completely undermines all of the previous atmospheric groundwork and never really succeeds in giving this movie a voice of its own. Hancock and cinematographer John Schwartzman may have created a gorgeous-looking neo-noir with fascinating characters, but definitely fail to stick the landing.
Despite the weaknesses of the script, Washington, Malek, and Leto all deliver fantastic performances. As the burnt out, troubled former detective superstar John Deacon, Washington gives a powerful and psycholgically tormented turn. As the younger, intelligent, but inexperienced Jim Baxter, Malek beautifully exudes the wide-eyed enthusiasm and passion that the detective has for his work. As the creepy and weird person-of-interest Albert Sparma, Jared Leto portrays the character with much aplomb and wicked zeal. Sparma loves toying with and tormenting the cops. It just remains to be seen whether or not he is the psychopath behind the murders.
As I stated above, this film owes much credit to other better dark detective stories such as Seven and Insomnia. The trouble is that The Little Things fails where those movies succeeded. The movie is getting released in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously. It is not a movie I highly recommend; therefore, one is better off watching it at home if still compelled to experience the disappointment, bewilderment and frustration it succeeds in delivering.