Trailers for “The Little Things,” in typical this-is-a-very-serious-movie fashion, stack the names of the film’s three stars, adding “Academy Award Winner” above each.
The 400-Word Review: The Little Things
By Sean Collier
January 31, 2021
Typically, a trio of Oscar holders is an indication that a movie will be an acting battle royale, pitting the very best performers in the world against one another in tense, gripping scenes. In this case, that’s a bit misleading. Because one of those Oscar-anointed performers is Denzel Washington, and the other two are Rami Malek and Jared Leto.
Look: Malek and Leto have their place. (Okay, Malek has his place, and Leto ... has something, allegedly.) But they can’t square off with Washington and look like they belong. It’s like you’re watching a NASCAR driver play one-on-one hoops with LeBron James. They’re both athletes, but they’re never playing the same sport.
Washington plays disgruntled cop Joe Deacon, a former Los Angeles detective who has relocated to become the sheriff of a sleepy town. Some business draws him back to the city, where he finds young LAPD detective Jim Baxter (Malek) struggling against a mysterious case involving a serial killer.
The opening scene of “The Little Things” clearly references “The Silence of the Lambs,” as a young woman heads back home late at night happily singing the B-52s hit “Roam” behind the wheel of her car. In “Silence of the Lambs,” it was Tom Petty’s “American Girl” — and the sequence had a different result. Still, the point of reference is clear and ambitious; writer/director John Lee Hancock is positioning his film in the tradition of Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece.
It suffers from the comparison, unfortunately. “The Little Things” has none of the intrigue and tantalizing atmosphere of a “Silence of the Lambs,” and the newer film’s prospective villain — Leto, as a greasy true-crime enthusiast — is no Buffalo Bill (and certainly no Hannibal Lecter). More importantly, Hancock is no Demme; his resume is defined by middling films such as “The Blind Side” and “Saving Mr. Banks,” pictures outpaced by their own ambition.
Still, “The Little Things” stumbles into something intriguing in its grim third act. As Deacon and Baxter get farther from the truth, stumbling through an awkward investigation, the film finds a unique note, exploring what happens to confident and dogged detectives when the trail grows cold. The ending may leave some audiences lukewarm, but it’s different enough to elevate “The Little Things” above mediocrity.
My Rating: 6/10
“The Little Things” is streaming on HBO Max.