Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) joins forces with Sgt. Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) to search for a serial killer who’s terrorizing Los Angeles. As they track the culprit, Baxter is unaware that the investigation is dredging up echoes of Deke’s past, uncovering disturbing secrets that could threaten more than his case.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating elements about John Lee Hancock’s The Little Things is that it actually starts off extremely strong with a chilling opening sequence that sees a woman driving late at night while singing along to “Roam” by The B-52’s and having a great time. Seems fairly simple and non-creepy so far, right? Well her night gets a whole lot worse when she notices that a car driving behind her has been going down the same road as her for quite a while now.
The driver seemingly notices this and proceeds to tailgate the woman and nearly crashes right into her, sending the woman into panic mode understandably. She pulls over nearby a building and proceeds to try her best to get help as fast as possible. I won’t say any more about this scene from here on out because it’s honestly one of the strongest in the movie. Trust me, I didn’t give it all away.
But as soon as this scene was over I got extremely excited because it seemed as though I was about to watch a creepy mystery thriller akin to Nocturnal Animals, and having loved that movie, I prepared myself for a good time. Unfortunately, The Little Things has little to offer in terms of surprises or just enjoyment in general. It’s a sloppily paced, tragically boring, and familiar story that has glimmers of greatness searing throughout, but at the end of the day, it all falls flat.
It kind of reminds me of Se7en but if it had all the brilliance and suspense lifted right out of it. It’s weird that we spend an entire movie with these two main characters – Deputy Sheriff Joe Deacon and Detective Jim Baxter – and yet, by the time the credits roll, we really don’t know anything about them. And honestly, the same can be said about the rest of the characters throughout this story.
It would be a forgivable thing if the story as a whole was genuinely enthralling without the focus on characters, but the story just isn’t interesting. After a while I just wanted the film to be over as there came a point about mid-way through in which I simply did not care about the story anymore.
If there is a saving grace here, however, it would definitely have to be the lead performances from Denzel Washington and Rami Malek. Washington delivers an unsettling yet mysterious performance that you’re never quite sure of. His past seems to be quite checkered and so he’s the type of character that you desperately want to learn more about. And although we almost never do, Washington’s performance is still terrific.
But I actually found myself enjoying Malek’s performance more which is unusual since Washington is the veteran actor and he’s the one that has been acclaimed for decades now, but Malek’s work here is simply excellent. He seems like the type of detective that knows-it-all, but at the end of the day, he certainly has his faults, and it makes his character more human.
It’s just frustrating that the movie as a whole couldn’t live up to its talented cast’s potential. The ending is also one of the worst and most anti-climactic endings I have seen in several years. If you were really invested in the story leading up to the grand finale, I can assure you that you’re going to be let down tremendously by the time the end credits roll. The Little Things should have left me feeling deeply disturbed and haunted, but instead, I simply felt empty.
Overall Grade: D+
MPAA Rating: R for violent/disturbing images, language, and full nudity
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: January 29, 2021
Running Time: 127 minutes