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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'The Little Things' Review: Denzel Washington & Rami Malek Track Down Ghoulish Jared Leto

Denzel Washington and Rami Malek behind police tape
Warner Bros. Pictures

Three Oscar-winning actors walk into an interrogation room instead of a bar and.. well, perhaps something happens to earn a feature-length film? Maybe an hour in or around that? It's frankly hard to say when it comes to crime thriller The Little Things by John Lee Hancock, who wrote and directed the piece, of which you can take his word that the movie's idea was conceived nearly 30 years ago now because that is what it feels like too.

Sheriff Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) gets involved with a new serial killer case with younger detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) as the murders have a similar pattern to an old cold case of his. The main suspect is a repair shop worker Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) whom the two then begin surveilling. That plot may sound familiar to you but it is also effective, as long as the filmmaker finds their own hook to attach to it and doesn't just rely on actors' charms which is exactly what happens with this one.

Easy way to downplay the film would be to bring up other titles in the crime thriller genre, many which unfortunately got made right after the concept for The Little Things was created, but that would be a disservice to few things that are on a level that is required. Washington can hold a close-up as well as anyone, Leto's weird antics actually work in these kinds of roles with unsettling characters and even Malik plays the detective role as you'd expect. Without this amount of talent, the film would be a wash from the first moment but it's never not engaging because of them. Thomas Newman's score is very appropriate and anxiety-ridden, the cinematography showcases the power struggle on screen and the period detail is very fine indeed as far as the sets go but all of them are moving uphill because the hook just isn't present.

It's much wiser to talk about the genre as whole rather than other movies because there is much more variety now. Problems arise because there seems to be way too much going on for a two-hour story here and you can sense the desperate cuts while you're watching. Much like 'Mindhunter' for instance, there's enough to investigate to make a limited series but instead you just wonder if you missed a scene or a whole subplot because some things that are introduced in the beginning never even come back around. That makes a very bumpy ride and the characters much less compelling, like why are we shown religious iconography or naked bodies when the last hour is just a stakeout? Or why do you do Michael-Bay-style cutting during a conversation with a murder suspect for any other reason than to reduce runtime? Where are the thrills in that?

Smileys: Acting

Frowneys: Pacing, directing

Very little interest in this thing.


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