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The Little Things (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Starring Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Natalie Morales, Terry Kinney, Chris Bauer, Joris Jarsky, Isabel Arraiza, Michael Hyatt, Sofia Vassilieva, Jason James Richter, Kerry O'Malley, Sheila Houlahan, John Harlan Kim, Glenn Morshower, Maya Kazan, Tiffany Gonzalez, Judith Scott, Lee Garlington, Charlie Saxton and Olivia Washington.

Screenplay by John Lee Hancock.

Directed by John Lee Hancock.

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. 127 minutes. Rated R.

It’s always the little things that trip people up. This is the mantra of Joe Deacon, a former LA detective who has downshifted to a smaller California village cop under mysterious circumstances. (He officially moved due to surviving a heart attack, but there seems to be a darker and murkier reason behind his lifestyle change.)

And to a certain extent, his statement describes his movie, which is very well-made and acted and often quite good, but not as good as it probably could be, or should be. In the big picture, it is very moody, suspenseful and intriguing. However, there are little flaws throughout – it never quite lives up to its intriguing premise.

And oh, that ending. It’s interesting, and it’s very dark, but it also tends to undo a lot of the hard work the film had been doing. Which is not to say that The Little Things is a bad film, it’s just a mostly good film with a bit of a disappointing climax.

The Little Things is an old-fashioned serial killer drama, in which a jaded aging detective returns home to help a younger, by-the-book detective. Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) and Deacon butt heads from the beginning – they meet as Baxter is having Deacon’s squad car towed because it is illegally parked behind his parking spot – but eventually become a team looking for a serial killer.

I know I’m not the only one who watched this and was reminded of the hit 1995 thriller Se7en, a similar, but ultimately better film.

Their suspect is Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), an oddball loner who appears exceedingly guilty and toys with the cops, but who also has a history of false confessions. He leads them on a wild goose chase for clues, but he does appear to know lots of things that only the killer should know.

Washington does a terrific job in the role – although this is a part that he has played before, often. Malek makes for an interesting straight man, a good cop getting slowly corrupted by his new partner and a case which is taking over his life. Leto is creepy but just a hair over-the-top as the possible bad guy.

For a serial killer film, it is surprising (and honestly, a little bit refreshing) how much of the actual killing occurs off-camera. This is a police procedural above all. However, eventually it becomes a bit repetitive – Deacon following Sparma around town and Sparma noticing him and confronting him.

It’s well done enough, but it’s all been done before.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: January 29, 2021.

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