Reel Reviews | The Little Things

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

What happens when three Oscar winners decide to make a crime thriller?  If it’s Denzel, Rami, and Jared, you get, The Little Things.

Small-town deputy Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) finds himself drawn back into investigating a series of murders in Los Angeles, a city he left years ago after resigning from being a detective.  Joe finds himself paired up with the up-and-coming detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) as they discover an unusual suspect. Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) who may or may not know the whereabouts of a girl who has recently disappeared.  Can the duo overcome their differences, crack the case and find the girl or will they crack under the pressure?

The Little Things is written and directed by John Lee Hancock and stars Washington, Malek, and Leto with Terry Kinney, Michael Hyatt, and Natalie Morales.  Hancock, best known for writing and directing The Blind Side and The Rookie, makes a courageous leap into the crime thriller genre from his typical feel-good Disney stories.  Reportedly, Hancock wrote this screenplay in between the time he wrote Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, long before his success with The Blind Side.  In fact, he had numerous names attached to direct the film, over the course of numerous years but Hancock recently chose to direct it himself.  Hancock does a good job directing his material.  His pacing is smart where he does not reveal a lot but just enough to keep the audience interested. 

Washington’s character is not a stretch.  We have seen Joe Deacon in Chisolm from The Magnificent Seven or Frank from Unstoppable but a lot in Detective Keith Frazier from Inside Man.  It’s not Washington’s problem that he has done so much work that things start to look familiar.  But Joe Deacon is that character who knows what he is doing and has a secret reason for doing it and nobody is going to stop him now that he is doing it.  Classic Denzel.

Leto is very colorful as the “bad guy” who is super smart, slick, and maybe just a little psychotic. He knows the law and he knows how to work just outside the lines to manipulate the system.  Every step he makes is measured and frustratingly perfect.  Leto is well cast.

The actor who doesn’t seem to fit is Malek, at first glance.  His performance is a little too cold and blasé in the opening act of the film.  His motives seem to be a little unclear at the beginning other than being a glory hound.  As the film develops, so does Malek’s Baxter until he reaches his boiling point.  So even Malek shines in his performance.

The problem with the movie is the whole construction of the story.  Hancock delivers an incredibly suspenseful thriller that borders great crime thrillers like Se7en through its first acts, sucking the air out of the room.  Sadly, the final act never gives the audience the opportunity to exhale, leaving them dizzy from the lack of oxygen. 

Rated R for violent/disturbing images, language, and full nudity, The Little Things is a good psychological thriller that holds up well until its final act.  It has a conclusion that is a little too realistic for today’s moviegoers who may look for a great payoff.  This piece is much more reminiscent of Hancock’s earlier writings than anything else.  The movie promises but never truly delivers.  It’s a very slow-burning flame that smolders its way out.  So sorry, when you get to the end of this film, there’s no grand statement.  It’s just a little something.

Grade:  C+

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