Crime Drama

Review: ‘The Little Things’ is a Police Procedural that Leaves a Lot to be Desired

January 28, 2021Ben MK

What do you get when you put three Oscar winners in a movie together? The answer may seem like a surefire strategy for box office success, but in the particular case of writer-director John Lee Hancock's slow-burn crime thriller The Little Things, the outcome might surprise you.

Set in late 1990, the film follows Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington), a Deputy with California's Kern County Sheriff's Department traumatized by a triple murder investigation he could never solve. Now, half a decade after his relentless and self-destructive pursuit of that killer cost him his career at the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, his marriage, and very nearly his life, Joe finds himself struggling to come to terms with those disturbing events from his past, when a new case forces him to relive the nightmare all over again.

Teaming up with his successor, up-and-coming detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), Joe is drawn into the details of a brutal homicide, as well as a missing persons case, that bears eerie similarities to the horrific crime that still haunts him to this day. But when the pair hit a roadblock with their prime suspect — a loner and self-described crime buff by the name of Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) — Joe and Jim must take matters into their own hands, as the latter begins to develop a personal connection to the job that threatens the integrity of their investigation.

What follows harkens back to such '90s cat-and-mouse thrillers as The Silence of the Lambs, Seven and Fallen. However, despite Hancock's skillful direction and yet another reliable performance from Washington, the final product can't quite manage to grip the audience's attention in the same way. Part of the blame falls squarely on the story itself, which spends far too much time teasing a climactic resolution that never materializes. Equally problematic, though, are Malek and Leto, whose apparent eagerness to outclass Washington effectively reduces their characters to little more than caricatures of the genre's best known tropes.

Of course, that's not to say the result is a total wash. Fans of hard-boiled police procedurals will no doubt find some degree of satisfaction in the movie's brooding atmosphere and the way it evokes the noir detective dramas of decades past. For everyone else, however, The Little Things leaves a lot to be desired.

The Little Things releases January 29th, 2021 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for violent/disturbing images, language and full nudity. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 7 min.

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