Starring three big-time Oscar winners all with very different personalities, THE LITTLE THINGS is a rare serial killer drama/thriller that I feel like we rarely see from the studio system anymore, though these types of movies mostly starred Denzel Washington in some form; immediate thoughts of THE BONE COLLECTOR and FRAILTY come to mind. There used to be a huge audience following, mostly by mature adults, that would flock in droves to movies like this and you’d find groups in the lobby discussing what they had just seen after. Oh how times have changed, but at least Denzel is still with us.
Washington is good here as Joe Deacon, an aged LA-based cop with a pretty troubled past that is slowly revealed as the movie churns along. Now living on the fringes in Bakersfield, Deacon comes back into play when a serial killer emerges in the LA area. Deacon also becomes involved with a new detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) who initially does not take a liking to Deacon. But the two eventually partner up as they learn a potential subject may be a guy named Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), who seems to take a liking to mind-games with police officers.
As always, I never want to explain more and let the audience discover THE LITTLE THINGS for themselves, even though I feel like I have seen a lot of the procedural type before. That said, there are some peculiar Denzel moments here; there are much of his grumpy stares that match the memes repeated on social media in the last few years, and even a bizarre shot where you see him put on lip balm that is too strange to witness. But he’s still Denzel, and I sure enjoyed watching him. Jared Leto looks almost totally unrecognizable to me as the potential killer, but your mileage may vary, and Rami Malek’s always interesting presence continues here with a lot of his trademark forlorn stares.
The picture is also set in the early 1990s, which is clearly evident in an opening scene (and one of my biggest pet peeves in movies) when a young girl sings along to a then-popular song, but the song is remixed to repeat for several minutes longer AND the character sings along way too well, clearly telling me that particular actor was told at some point “Hey, this was a really popular song at the time, so pretend to sing-along like your life depends on it.” I was more impressed later on when off in the distance I saw a banner for the Brian DePalma oddity THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Because that movie is odd. And it’s DePalma.
But moving on. The director is John Lee Hancock, known for directing Sandra Bullock to an Oscar for THE BLIND SIDE and more recently THE FOUNDER about the early rise of the McDonalds empire. His direction is subtle but surprisingly solid (I especially liked a later scene in a field that really used its space between characters well) and pretty serviceable for the action.
Far from perfect and a touch overlong at 128 minutes, THE LITTLE THINGS still hit a fun 90’s nerve with me and reminded me a bit of a less gory version of SEVEN. Here’s hoping it does well and possibly inspires more movies where interesting characters talk to another and no sequels would be required. That would be cool.
Rating: *** out of ****
THE LITTLE THINGS is available via Premium Video on Demand in Canada (Apple TV/Cineplex Store etc) and any theaters that are still open. In the US, the movie is available on HBO Max and theaters.