The Little Things (2021)

The first “big” movie released in 2021, The Little Things took a while to get to the big screen.

Originally conceived by writer/director John Lee Hancock in 1993, it passed through the hands of some Hollywood director elites before settling into being helmed by the man that ended up making it. Denzel Washington came along for the ride first, followed by Rami Malek and Jared Leto, bringing three former Oscar winners together for the film.

Unfortunately, the movie fails to live up to the hype caused by its cast, and for most of the 2 hour-plus runtime, feels like another movie that preceded it by two decades, though not necessarily on paper.

In summary, Denzel Washington plays disgraced former Los Angeles homicide detective Joe Deacon, who is toiling away as a Deputy Sheriff in Kern County, California. When directed to return to the LASD for some evidence, he decides to stick around as a serial killer claims their last victim. Rami Malek plays Jim Baxter, the lead detective on the serial killer’s trail, a man who is running out of time before his boss calls in the feds to help.

Throughout the story, we eventually come to learn why Deacon is disgraced, but not before he aids in the case and helps to narrow down who the killer might be. Jared Leto is Albert Sparma, a weird dude that catches Deacon’s attention as a suspect, and eventually, Baxter and Deacon “solve” the case in their own way and try to return to their lives.

The movie, with its grim murder scenes and numerous victims, felt alarmingly like Se7en, the 1995 crime drama from David Fincher that starred Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as two homicide detectives haunting down a deranged killer. But where Se7en succeeded, and The Little Things failed, could be in the revelation of the killer.

I’ve seen Se7en numerous times, and it is one of my all-time favorite movies, despite the appearance of Kevin Spacey. Nevertheless, his killer in that movie has a real motivation for his crimes – the seven deadly sins that give the film it’s title – which is quite a departure from the killer in The Little Things. Sure, there seems to be some similarity between all the victims, but we are never provided any kind of motive for the actions, which ends up making the ultimate payoff feel a little bit of a let down.

And because of that, the whole thing feels like a bit of a waste. With such star power in the lead roles, you would expect The Little Things to be much more compelling. Instead, it feels formulaic and not unlike any other generic movie from the “neo-noir” genre of crime thriller. Placing the movie in the 1990s doesn’t really help either. Malek, LEto, and especially Washington all deserved more from this movie.

When ranking the movie on my FlickChart, it settled in a #675, between Shaun of the Dead and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s also the 11th best Denzel Washington movie I have rated (of 17), failing to overcome Training Day and finishing just ahead of The Pelican Brief. Washington has been better in a lot of similar movies; Man on Fire is highly underrated in this genre for him, as is The Equalizer.

As for Malek and Leto, I haven’t seen enough of their movies to really provide any real rating, though the movies they won Oscars for – Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody and Leto for Dallas Buyers Club – were both better than this movie despite their flaws. Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t really even that good – I have it ranked #503 – but Malek is much better in it, fake teeth and all.

The Little Things is currently in theaters and is also streaming on HBO Max through the end of February or so. If you’re a Denzel Washington completist, it may be worth your time, but otherwise, I wouldn’t rush to see it. Prior to COVID-19, January tended to be the dumping ground for movies that never really came together, at it seems like this one fits that bill.

Until next time…