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Review: The Little Things

The first release of 2021 of Warner Bros’ ambitious and controversial HBO Max strategy, The Little Things hit theaters and HBO Max day and date this past weekend as Denzel Washington and Rami Malek attempt to track down a serial killer in the early 90s.

Set in October of 1990, Denzel plays Kern County Deputy John Deacon.  Sent to Los Angeles to collect evidence for a case in their jurisdiction, “Deke” gets caught up in a serial killer case being investigated by hotshot LAPD detective Jim Baxter (Malek) that seems to share similarities to a case that Deke worked on when he was in the LAPD before he worked himself almost to death and left the city.  There seems to be an obvious suspect in the highly creepy Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence or witnesses to tie him to crimes, forcing Jim and Deke to dive even deeper into the case and try to find something to tie Sparma to the crimes.  The movie feels tonally similar to HBO’s own True Detective, where the actual mechanics and solving of the case are secondary to the personal lives of the police on it.  The movie spends a lot of time digging into Deke’s past, especially since he has to confront people and place from it while back in LA and also the effect of the case on Jim and his family and the crumbling of his cocky, superstar demeanor as he becomes more and more obsessed.  Without spoiling the ending, I would prepare yourself to not expect everything to be wrapped up in a neat bow like an episode of Law & Order and the ambiguousness will probably infuriate or disappoint a lot of viewers.  Other than that, there’s really not a lot that stands out from The Little Things, it’s well shot and well acted but there really isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen before or done with more style or a more complicated plot or interesting twist.

Denzel is great as always but he can play this kind of role in his sleep and he does seem to be in cruise control.  He has lots of great moments and some meaty monologues but it’s pretty much just a solid but standard Denzel performance.  Rami Malek is also very good but also doesn’t really do much interesting or different than what you’ve seen before from other detectives getting in too deep from other crime thrillers.  The person really digging in and offering up an interesting performance is Jared Leto, whose Sparma is a supreme creep who is also a cocky asshole who seems to enjoy toying with the police.  What he’s doing with his voice and all of the little looks and gestures makes for an infuriating and effective antagonist.  Natalie Morales, Glenn Morshower, Chris Bauer, and Michael Hyatt round out a solid supporting cast but besides Bauer’s sort of throwback 70s feeling detective, they are all good but don’t really do much or are given much to stand out.

If you’re looking for a decent crime thriller, The Little Things probably worth checking out, especially if you already have HBO Max since it’s right there waiting until February 28th.  Jared Leto’s performance is definitely the one major stand out but Denzel and Rami Malek are great if not particularly remarkable or unique and the whole movie doesn’t really do anything unique or interesting that you haven’t seen before in other crime thrillers except for maybe the ambiguity of its final act.

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