The Little Things

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The idea that actors have foolishly turned down roles in classic films is a common Hollywood anecdote. Denzel Washington revealed in a 2002 Playboy interview that he passed on the Brad Pitt role in David Fincher’s iconic Oscar-nominated Seven. He regretted it. It’s hard not to think about that while watching this dated, derivate thriller. Coincidentally it all culminates in a scene that directly recalls that film. The difference is, the ending of The Little Things doesn’t even hold a candle to the impact of the one in Seven.

The tale concerns two police officers (Denzel Washington and Rami Malek) on the trail of a serial killer in Los Angeles. John Lee Hancock reportedly wrote the script 28 years ago and ultimately decided to direct it himself. The saga is set in the 1990s and this actually feels like a production made in that era. I’m specifically talking about Silence of the Lambs and the aforementioned Seven. Obviously, if this was as compelling, it would be a glowing 5-star review. The problem is the police procedural is fairly routine for a significant part of the drama.

It’s also fitting that the narrative is set in the 1990s because it simplifies the action. The chronicle opens with a girl in a car being pursued on a deserted highway by a mysterious driver at night. I wondered “Why doesn’t she just call the police on her cell phone?” before I realized this was set in the past. The retro milieu makes this and other plot developments a lot easier to depict without having to deal with pesky details like advances in cellular communication and forensic evidence.

The Little Things is a lackluster effort. The mood kind of snaps to attention when Jared Leto shows up a bit later. He’s a suspect who enjoys toying with the police. Leto gives a supremely creepy performance. Whenever he’s on screen, I was riveted. Denzel Washington and Rami Malek are talented actors too. Denzel quietly mumbles with intensity. Rami does the same. As cops, they gamely exploit an old school vs. new school antagonism towards each other. It isn’t enough. Both fail to make their characters interesting here.

The story ultimately meanders to a payoff that is supremely unsatisfying. When a movie starts weak and finishes strong, that’s usually forgivable, but end badly and that’s the memory you take away. Jared Leto’s achievement is good enough to make this watchable. So far he’s garnered nominations at both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor’s Guild awards. If you’re dying to know why, it’s worth checking out.

02-04-21

5 Responses to “The Little Things”

  1. was looking forward to your review of this movie. we have a difference of appreciation for this one. Seven is a much more effective movie but I liked how Little Things is more than just about solving murders. if i understood Denzels character correctly, it also deals with the handling of his guilt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes and that opportunity is a twist that makes this story different. However it doesn’t make me like his character any more. In fact it impugns the way some police officers behave and ultimately a hopeless comment on their profession.

      Like

      • you have a point. the character is imperfect and remains that way. however what I appreciated most is the movies ending. it didn’t go for a cheap shock. instead it went for a thought with a more meaningful echo. not that i agreed with the characters decision. but its something different from a narrative standpoint.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I was into this, then it started to drag. I agree, when Jared showed up, he brought life to the movie. The ending, was different, but not a positive message. 2 ⭐️

    Like

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