|Synopsis||Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe Deacon is sent to Los Angeles for what should have been a quick evidence-gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes embroiled in the search for a serial killer who is terrorizing the city. (IMDB)|
|Length||2 hours, 8 minutes|
|Release Date||January 29th, 2021|
|Distribution||Warner Bros. (theatrical), HBO Max (video on demand)|
|Directing||John Lee Hancock|
|Writing||John Lee Hancock|
|Starring||Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto|
When I first watched The Little Things trailer, I knew it was one that I would have to watch. The caliber of actors involved makes for an instant eye-catcher, which includes Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto. This film is also one of the many Warner Brothers movies that came to HBO Max alongside theaters due to the ongoing pandemic. So, whether you want to mask-up and head to one of the few open movie theaters or pay for an HBO Max subscription will be up to you once you’re done reading this. Unfortunately, I’m writing this review weeks after the release, simply because I couldn’t decide if The Little Things is worth anyone’s time.
Violence/Scary Images: Being that this is a crime thriller, we see many crime scenes. These moments show the bodies of murdered women. Blood is on the bodies of the victims from their wounds as well. Lastly, a character gets hit in the face with a shovel.
Language/Crude Humor: “F**k” is used eight times.
Drug/Alcohol References: Two characters have a conversation in a bar as one of them drinks a beer.
Sexual content: Some references occur, but no sexual acts take place. The previously mentioned corpses of women are all nude. Multiple scenes vary in degree of exposed breasts, buttocks, and one in which the pubic region comes into view from a distance. A character gets aroused by photos of these women.
Spiritual Content: Dialogue shares that one character believes in God and goes to church every Sunday. Two characters have a conversation about their belief in God. A few scenes show the main character interacting with former victims of an unsolved case. These aren’t ghosts and more of a visualization of the character dealing with his past sins.
Other Negative Content: There are a few intense interrogation scenes.
The Little Things takes place in Southern California in the 1990s. Denzel plays the role of Joe Deacon, a Kern County Sheriff who is assigned to collect evidence from Los Angeles relating to a murder case. There he meets Jimmy Baxter (played by Malek), the lead detective on a very similar case to one from his past. Deacon gets wrapped up in the case after Baxter brings him along for assistance. Jared Leto’s role is the number one suspect, which is pretty clear information from the trailers.
Watching these actors play these roles are easily the best part of the film—the trailers and posters wouldn’t let us forget these guys are Academy Award winners. Denzel plays the stereotypical seasoned veteran who has an eye for “the little things.” Rami plays a straight-edged detective who goes by the book; he shows that he is a versatile actor in this role. Jared Leto’s character is also a typical part that he has become known for, yet again plays it very well. For two out of the three actors, this could be considered type-casting, but the main reason that anyone should watch this movie is to watch these guys do what they are good at.
Speaking of stereotypes, The Little Things doesn’t do much to re-invent or evolve the genre. As the two lead characters work to catch their suspect, we get the typical game of cat and mouse. That is what I come to these movies for, but I found a severe lack of tension. When that chase began, most of the scenes depicted Deacon and Jimmy staking out or tailing their suspect only for the result to be that he pops up somewhere nearby, revealing that he’s one step ahead. When those moments succeeded I felt very uneasy, so they achieved the goal the director/writer was shooting for.
A few significant factors, including that lack of tension, make this movie feel like a slow burn. First, the film sets the tone right away by conveying that this will be a dreary tale. Furthermore, it spends the first half of the movie on the build-up and pointing at the elephant in the room—Deacon’s past. If you’re prone to fall asleep while watching a movie, you might find yourself nodding out before the game of cat and mouse begins. Sadly, if you find yourself waking up right at the end, the payoff isn’t exactly worth it—you might wish you stayed asleep.
Without spoiling how the movie ends, the implications it is trying to make are more substantial than the climax itself. The result of everything that our two lead characters are working towards is not the one you will hope for. You can file this one under the anti-climactic category, but the scenario in question significantly impacts these characters in such a way that I find it fascinating. Though it is easily the most divisive part of the movie, my family and I talked about it up to a week later, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It feels like a low blow to the audience, yet it’s potentially brilliant writing while matching the entire movie’s tone.
I initially didn’t pay much attention to the soundtrack of the film. I’ve since then listened to the score and recalled the scenes to which these tracks are attached. I noticed this soundtrack feels heavily influenced by old noir films, then realized what The Little Things is—a modern noir film. “The Gentlemen’s Club” is a specific track that borrows heavily from the genre. In hindsight, these influences are not something that an average moviegoer might pick up on. I’m grateful that taking another look at the film’s music brought its source of inspiration to light.
In conclusion, this movie may be a work of fiction, but its subject is authentic. One particular case in my city was featured on Dateline NBC almost ten years ago. Women go missing every day, and there are plenty of creeps like Jared Leto’s character out there. My point is this movie might feel too close to home for some people. If you have friends, family, or even yourself were involved in any similar situation, this is one that you should skip.
I’m done wrestling with my thoughts on this film now that I’ve typed them out. The Little Things is not a great movie, but I think it deserves a rewatch. It is a plodding film for most of the way, but I believe that is very intentional. In the grand scheme of things, this movie stayed in my head despite its flaws. This film will be a drag for many who watch it, but I hope that people get some enjoyment from watching this all-star cast do some work.
The Bottom Line
The Little Things makes a case for potentially one of the best films of the year, but some big things keep it from providing evidence that it should be.