Avid movie watcher and sometimes harsh critic with dreams of writing stories himself.
The Little Things is one of the first films to come to HBO Max in the recent deal struck between WB and the streaming platform. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been challenging to give films a theatrical release. However, some may feel about the sanctity of film, streaming is the best course of action to bring entertainment to people in this pandemic. It feels like forever ago since we have last seen a Denzel Washington film (close to two and a half years), and The Little Things does little to stand out from the rest. In many ways, it feels like a film out of time. If it were to have come out a decade or two ago it would have been more fitting. At times it even feels as if the film is striving to be like Seven. Theaters at that time were filled with brooding, dimly lit whodunit type of murder mysteries. The Little Things does, however, benefit from having a phenomenal cast led by Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto. The three actors do a tremendous job of keeping the audience interested even if the film meanders about through most of its runtime.
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The plot follows Deputy Sheriff Joe "Deke" Deacon (Denzel Washington), who is looking forward to his upcoming vacation, but gets roped into a recent murder case and accompanies recently appointed and high rising lead detective Jimmy Baxter (Rami Malek). Deacon begins to slowly recognize similarities between the current case and an old serial murder case he was unable to solve during his days as lead detective. He had become obsessive over the case, which led to personal struggles and even a divorce from his then wife. Other cops within the precinct all warn Baxter of Deacon, saying that he is bad news and a bad influence. However, he decides to listen to Deacon as he sees that his insight could help him crack this current murder case. Deacon, while following clues, comes across Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), who he suspects is the murderer of the current case as well as his old case. From then on it becomes a long and tedious cat and mouse game between the two detectives and the increasingly disturbing Sparma, who appears to thoroughly enjoy playing games with the cops. All the while, Deacon and Baxter develop a close friendship as the former largely sees himself in the young upstart. He warns him not to make the same mistakes he did in being "an angel" to these victims.
The Little Things was originally written by writer and director John Lee Hancock back in the early 90s when the neo-noir thriller was flooding the theaters every week. This explains why the film feels a bit dated. Hancock even admits he had not changed the script since he wrote it. The Little Things feels a bit out of time for this reason, as it even takes place in 1990, which honestly helps to add tension as the dated technology makes its harder for police officers to find the serial killer. The film moves at a slow pace but manages due to the talent behind the camera in Hancock and the talent in front of the camera. Ultimately, the stars of the film is what will draw people to it, much like a 90s film. Denzel Washington is exceptional as an angsty detective who is haunted by his previous failures. He chews up every scene he is in, and even though his character may be slightly underdeveloped, Washington fills in the blanks and allows the viewer to really care for him and identify with him. Rami Malek also excels as the young Jim Baxter and plays off of Washington beautifully. Jared Leto also shines as the gross Albert Sparma. It's hard to feel anything but disgust for such an overtly disgusting character, but Leto's talent as an actor also manages to make him interesting. You will wonder if the character is just mentally ill or sick. In the hands of a lesser actor, Sparma could have easily been a one-note character or played for cheap laughs.
Neo-noir whodunit murder mysteries have largely dominated the small screen as of late with shows like True Detective and Mindhunter. These trends are common place in the industry, but films like The Little Things have died off in favor for bigger tentpole studio films. Despite its flaws and being a bit outdated, it still is an enjoyable film. John Lee Hancock does a solid job behind the camera and even using the Los Angeles backdrop to add to the mystery and lost feeling that the two lead detectives feel as they try to bring down Albert Sparma. The score composed by John Schwartzman also helps to add to the ambience that Hancock was going for to add to the already moody film. The stars are the real attraction to the film. While it is outdated and a bit slow, audiences will still find it to be entertaining enough thanks to its stars.