What could go wrong with a slow burn, murder mystery movie starring three Academy Award winners?
Well, depending on how much action you like in such a movie, not much or a few things! Critics and audiences alike are divided on the merits of The Little Things.
The movie stars Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto. It’s written and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks and The Founder).
Set in October 1990 (around the time Hancock wrote the script), The Little Things tells of Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe “Deke” Deacon (Washington) who is sent to Los Angeles for what should be a quick evidence-gathering assignment.
Instead, he becomes involved in the search for a killer who is murdering young women around Los Angeles. Young and confident L.A. County Sheriff’s Homicide Department Sergeant, Jim Baxter (Malek), is leading the hunt for the killer.
As the story develops we learn that Deacon used to work for the Homicide Department but left after his last case took a huge personal toll on his health and private life.
While Deacon still has his supporters within the department, there are others who are actively hostile towards him including the team’s captain (Terry Kinney).
However, despite his superior’s pressure, Baxter realises Deacon is a very smart and experienced investigator who could help him find the murderer.
Unfortunately for Deacon the murders bring back disturbing memories of that last case which also involved the brutal killing of young women. This time he is determined to find the killer.
Enter appliance repairman Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) who becomes Baxter and Deacon’s prime suspect. Sparma certainly looks like, and has the demeanour of, a serial killer. Confident and smart, he takes great pleasure in playing a cat-and-mouse game with the two detectives.
It’s the relationship between Deacon and Baxter and then Sparma and the two detectives which dominates The Little Things. According to Hancock his aim in making the movie was to explore both the intellectual and psychological sides of solving crimes.
As a result there’s not a lot of police action typical in such movies such as fast car chases or shootings. The opening scene is arguably the scariest. Hancock’s decision to set the movie in 1990 also means there’s no mention of mobile phones, GPS tracking or DNA. Payphones seem to be the main form of communication.
It’s a lack of action (although we still do see a number of bodies) that seems to frustrate the movie’s detractors. Understandably, the credibility of the penultimate scene has also confounded many. Those who like their murder mysteries neatly solved may also be a little disappointed.
However, if you’re interested in a slow-burn mood piece and the chance to watch three renowned actors ply their trade you are likely to find plenty to appreciate.
Leto gives a great performance as the evil Sparma. It’s no surprise he has received a Golden Globe best support actor nomination. Washington is compelling as a man haunted by his past. While Malik’s character is not as complicated as Leto and Washington’s he too is believable as a detective who, although ambitious, does care about keeping the community safe.
The Little Things opens nationally in cinemas on Thursday February 18.
*Images – Copyright: © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Nicola Goode
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