In Brief: A great whodunit with exceptional acting, a wonderfully disgusting villain and an unexpected — and disturbing — twist ending.
The Little Things is a whodunit. Like the detectives played by Denzel Washington and Rami Malek, you think you know who has murdered all those women. All that’s missing is one little piece.
Or to quote Washington’s Joe Deacon, it comes down to the little things.
It’s 1990s Los Angeles. A serial killer is on the loose. Malek’s Jim Baxter is the super sleuth determined to bring him to justice. Washington’s Deacon used to be the department’s superstar. When things went south for him, he gave up the big time and works in a small cop shop in Bakersfield, many miles away from the city’s glittering lights.
While in the city to collect evidence on a murder case in his jurisdiction, Deacon notices similarities between a case he was unable to solve and Baxter’s. That drags him into the investigation.
The suspect is played by Oscar and Golden Globe winner, Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club).
This is vintage Washington. He’s a master of the low-key character and as he’s aged, Washington’s characters have grown with him. Deacon has wisdom combined with guile. Those attributes make him a formidable force and a reluctant mentor to his younger colleague.
It doesn’t hurt to have a villain of Leto’s caliber. Leto’s stringy, greasy long hair and disgusting countenance turn his Albert Sparma into personified slime. The performance is the best of the three actors. Without out it, The Little Things is a lot, not a little, less interesting.
Of the three, Malek is the least entertaining and the least believable. His facial features are perfect for doing Oscar and Golden Globe-winning work as Freddy Mercury and he’s geeky enough looking to make his Mr. Robot character believable. A detective managing a major murder case isn’t quite as believable.
The Little Things is written and directed by John Lee Hancock. As his exemplary directing in The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks and The Rookie demonstrate, Hancock is the consummate storyteller.
Though it’s a rather long, and sometimes convoluted, story, Hancock keeps things moving. When downtime is needed to punctuate the story, he slows things down. If nail-biting tension is called for, Hancock can create it with the best of them.
That — and a disturbing and very uncomfortable climax — gives The Little Things the balance needed to make it a very good thriller. It also doesn’t hurt to be able to call on three incredible actors who bring it home scene after scene after scene.
This is also a case where the little things matter.
Director: John Lee Hancock
Stars: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Natalie Morales, Chris Bauer, Terry Kinney, Isabel Arraiza
Rated R for mature themes, violence and language. This is a good one and it has Denzel. What’s not to love? It gets the not-little-things 4 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
You can stream this movie on view on demand.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.