The Little Things Review
By Addison Lee.
The new thriller gets some big things wrong regarding it’s mystery and thrills.
John Lee Hancock’s new thriller, The Little Things checks a ton of the right boxes. It is appropriately dark and atmospheric, and creepy. It’s packed with some pretty good and interesting performances. And it has the start of a worth while plot. But for all it’s well done setup and promises, it forgets to thrill.
The story centers around Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) a deputy who happens on a murder case in LA that’s similar to one he never solved some time ago.
He joins the lead detective on the case Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) a young spunky dedicated hotshot who confidently struts and dramatically issues orders. He believes he’s a good guy and knows he’s gonna catch his man.
After much following of bread crumbs, they arrive at that man. Jared Leto plays Albert Sparma as a sweaty and creepy agitator, obviously fascinated with the macabre and with trying to get under our heroes’ skin. He succeeds in more than one scene at the latter. But questions persist as to whether they’re onto him because he’s guilty or he’s guilty because they’ve got him in their sights.
Washington, as Joe Deacon, delivers on multiple levels. Denzel has the ability to play subtle and tortured emotions at the same time he plays the big boisterous ones. He’s impressive. Likewise Rami Malek delivers as cocky and confident, before circumstances peel away at his veneer, reveling unsure inexperience.
Tortured veteran detective who’s seen it all before? Check. Naive upstart hotshot who hasn’t? Check. Grungy, gruesome crime scenes and long talks about the nature of good and evil? Check. Long drives into the desert in search of answers? Every ingredient needed to bake up Silence of the Lambs and Seven is here. But that is a disservice to the film; setting expectations it can’t deliver on since the central mystery is sparse. It doesn’t warrant the buildup.
And it’s all buildup. The characters who hint at other characters’ pasts, the clues at murder scenes and in autopsy rooms, all of it promises answers we never get. A run of exposition late in the film lets us know it may never have even been about the mystery. The set pieces are few and don’t lead to major revelations. And the ending feels less like inevitability and more like happenstance. The whole thing feels like being taken for a ride and the driver just keeps driving, waiting to see how long you’ll hold on before realizing he’s taking you in circles.
John Lee Hancock wrote the screenplay for this in 1993. And had it come out then, it may have been groundbreaking for it’s style, joining Silence of the Lambs as a dark gritty rumination on human nature and obsession. But even then, the plot would still feel...light. In 2021, after dark gritty mystery thrillers have become their own genre, The Little Things needs to bring more than style and good acting to captivate.
Two and a half out of five stars.
Written and directed by John Lee Hancock, The Little Things stars, Denzel Washington, Rami Malick and Jared Leto. It is rated “R” for violence and language. It runs 127 minutes. You can see The Little Things in select theaters as well as streaming on HBO Max until February 28th.