Denzel Washington. Rami Malek. Jared Leto. What could go wrong? Well, just watch "The Little Things" and you'll find out.
If "The Little Things" feels like a throw-away thriller from a bygone era, that's because, well, it pretty much is. This script has been circulating in Hollywood for nearly three decades, after Steven Spielberg found it to be "too dark" back in 1993. Eventually, the film's scribe, John Lee Hancock, decided to direct the thing himself, and the studios finally gave him the green-light when he showed he could in fact direct (Hancock's films include "The Highwaymen," "The Founder" and "The Blind Side").
And while nostalgia is all the rage in 2021, "The Little Things" seems stale and beyond its expiration date...a thriller with few thrills and little payoff, peppered with dated references, adds up to more than a little bit of disappointment.
Joe Deacon (Washington) is an aging, former detective who was demoted and is now given menial tasks, like going to pick up paperwork and/or drop-off evidence for his precinct. He runs into up-and-coming and eccentric cop, Jim Baxter (Malek) who ropes him into joining an ongoing investigation of a serial killer who has been targeting local women. Once suspect is Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), whom the two just can't seem to pin down to the committed crimes. Cat and mouse style games commence.
Poor Denzel is rarely in a stinker...in fact, at the time of this writing, I can't think of too many throughout his illustrious career. But "The Little Things" doesn't give him much to sink his teeth into. He also plays up to Deacon's age, and it's a stark reminder that Washington himself is now fast approaching 70. Malek on the other hand is over-the-top and a bit too hammy...the two actors have little chemistry in a film that demands that they have some.
The movie itself just lacks energy or any real originality. Even as it ramps up to its climax, at night in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, there's a big dramatic swing-and-miss. The whole film just feels like one missed dramatic opportunity after another. The dialogue is hokey and the way that Deacon is folded into the new murder investigations is nearly implausible, even for a movie like this.
It's description on IMDB.com says: "Two cops track down a serial killer." Really, that's about it, which is a travesty given the talent attached.
It makes you wonder: Why was this film circulated for nearly 30 years if it wasn't any good? A better perspective to have is that maybe there was good reason this movie stayed on the shelf for so long. Either way, "The Little Things" misses big.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Natalie Morales, Terry Kinney, Chris Bauer, Michael Hyatt.
Written and Directed by John Lee Hancock ("The Highwaymen," "The Founder," "The Blind Side," "The Rookie").
"The Little Things" is available simultaneously in theaters and on HBO MAX, Friday, January 29th, 2021.
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