Denzel Washington in a potentially gritty cop movie with Rami Malek and Jared Leto? SIGN ME UP!
Well, that’s what I thought going in to watching “The Little Things”, the latest 90s-esque crime thriller from John Lee Hancock. When a string of killings brings Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Washington) back to Los Angeles, secrets from his and the department’s past boil to the surface. Hot-shot new detective Jim Baxter (Malek) accepts Deacon’s assistance with trepidation and soon the two are on the tail of, well, a weirdo (Leto) they suspect to be involved. What unfolds is a lot like David Fincher’s “SE7EN”, especially in Leto’s portrayal of Albert Sparma.
SE7EN did it better
I hate comparing pieces of art, but when the first thing I think during the first scene of the film is, “This reminds me of ‘SE7EN'”, that’s hard to shake when the film really reminds me of “SE7EN”. The trouble is this film came out in 2021, not 1995. The performances are all fine, but the story is boring. The direction is boring. The film is boring. The pacing is very slow. The intercutting of Deke’s flashbacks don’t add anything to the story. During interludes, my wife and I kept asking, “What’s actually going on, though?” And it never got better.
What could have improved it?
Female characters, for one. In the entirety of the film, there are three featured female characters. Natalie Morales plays Malek’s partner Det. Jamie Estrada and she doesn’t have lines until her third or fourth appearance on screen. And aside from Washington, it’s mostly white guys. And the script could have used a couple more drafts with some non-white male perspectives. These movies were the cream of the crop in the 90s, but now I really don’t care about them (but give me “The Bone Collector” any day). This subject matter isn’t interesting anymore and the LAST thing we need right now is a story about cops with questionable morality (that’s not a spoiler either; it’s pretty much on front street from the start).
Short answer: no. Washington is on auto-pilot. Malek is miscast. Leto is – I’ll say it again, because his character has very little development – just a weird guy. Creepy, sure, but to quote Brian Foster of “Talks Machina” fame: creepy ain’t a crime.
Any other year, this movie would have come and gone as a under-performing blip on the box office listings, but since it’s the pandemic and it was pushed to HBO Max the same time it was released to theaters, someone felt the need to nominate it. But as you can tell, I do not agree.
Rating 2 out of 5 stars
Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and writer in NYC. Check out his web series SESSION ZERO Fridays in video and podcast form at his website www.lincolnlhayes.com/sessionzero.