When three Academy award winners are attached to a project the expectations for the film’s success are higher than most. That’s not the case with The Little Things. The high expectations failed to deliver on that promise and hope. The expectation is to witness three of the best performances of the year in a single film. Performances alone cannot keep a bad film afloat once a leak breaks through the hull. It’s a shame when that happens because as fan’s we want every film to be the best film ever made.
The Little Things starts off with a lot of promise from a concept we’ve seen before time and time again. The generic trope makes up this film’s DNA. One-time big city cop Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) “Deke” for short has moved on to a smaller town where he still works as a cop. Called in to deliver evidence from his old prescient, the new detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) is on one of the biggest unsolved cases with no answers. Since Deke is in town, Jim asks Deke to assist in solving the string of serial murders. Their best lead, as the desperation mounts, comes in the form of crime addict Albert (Jared Leto).
The Little Things, with a promising cast falls far too short of any originality. Writer/director John Lee Hancock had the first draft of this script ready in 1993. Almost thirty years to make this film and in that time many films have come out that landed the buddy cop crime thriller trope far better than this attempt. Comparison’s to Se7en are felt instantly with the older cop pairing up with the younger to solve an unsolvable crime but where Se7en succeeds, The Little Things fails.
“He is a good cop, Deke. College boy, bit of a Holy Roller. But, hey, I’ve been thinking about joining them myself. Get on the fast track for a promotion.”
With The Little Things, Hancock has this tunnel vision approach with his protagonists and antagonists overlapping stories. Albert is set up to be the only suspect yet there is little to no evidence that can be pinned against him. The only hunch Deke and Jim have against Albert is the muscle car he drives but when the story attempts to develop further, all Albert is, is a crime junkie the same way Louis Bloom is in Nightcrawler. Hancock’s script doesn’t provide a secondary actual suspect to his thirty-year script either. The entire film Albert is looked at as the killer and when one isn’t actually presented with foolproof evidence an unresolved sense takes over.
What happens when another murder is committed? We’ll never know because the film ended on what it thinks is a high note. There won’t be a sequel to wrap up the story and its unsatisfactory to what is set up in the first act. These men are so hellbent to catch Albert that the possibility of another suspect isn’t even considered. Similar to director Bong Joon Ho’s Memories of Murder – although based on a true story, that case was left unresolved as detectives aimed their focus on only a few suspects but never alluding to a better possible match. Besides the derivative story, Hancock’s characters are questionable to how they reside in this universe. Firstly, Jared Leto is wearing a fat suit – there is zero purpose for this, what’s the point? His character being on the chubbier side doesn’t add anything to the overall plot of this story. His character carries no substance to him and is completely one dimensional.
Rami Malek overacts here. He adds dramatic moments where there doesn’t need to be one. A more toned-down approach might have suited his character better than the almost depressing nature of his dialogue and body language. Out of the three high caliber actors Denzel’s Deke shows some semblance of development throughout the story. Sprinkled throughout are these flashbacks into Deke’s past when he was the big detective in the Los Angeles aera. Deke is haunted by a past case where he accidently killed an innocent person. He makes it his mission to solve this case even if his hands get dirty in the process. Denzel is the standout of the three men, he is able to channel the anguish of past mistakes which fuels his determination.
“Is that it? Not going to work me over, Mr. Clean? Okay. I invoke my Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Just kidding. You should see the look on your faces. Come on, it’s hilarious. But I would like my rights waiver card. I know I’m not officially in custody, but better be safe than sorry, huh, guys?”
Pacing to a crime thriller is one of the most important aspects to get right. The Little Thigs pacing is uneven from start to finish taking too much time with some scenes and too little with others. Watching a character drive around is boring, Quentin Tarentino in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood had his characters driving around for half the film – it’s not something that should be used in excess. At least John Lee Hancock isn’t obsessed with feet.
The Little Things talks a big game but ends up leaving its story unresolved and unfulfilled. With three academy level actors leading the way there is little to no character development, a story that takes pieces from the generic cop thriller trope’s and a sense of incompletion, and uneven pacing The Little Things is never fully realized in what could have been a great murder thriller story. John Lee Hancock’s script is too empty for this genre that falls short of the expectation of a thirty-year script. If I were to rate The Little Things, I’d rate it a 1 out of 5.
So, tell me, have you seen The Little Things and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
The Little Things is written & directed by John Lee Hancock is Rated R and has a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Little Things was released on January 29, 2021 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 7 minutes. The Little Things can be streamed on HBO Max and seen in theaters.