Denzel Washington is back, this time starring alongside Rami Malek and Jared Leto in The Little Things. Written and Directed by John Lee Hancock, this thriller is a good watch for all Denzel fans.
The Little Things is a crime thriller film set in Los Angeles County during the fall of 1990. The story follows Joe Deacon, a Kern County Deputy Sheriff, as he makes a return to Los Angeles County where he once lived and worked. Upon his arrival, he finds himself assisting in a murder investigation lead by the man who replaced him when he originally left the force there, Jim Baxter.
The Little Things shines in many ways when it comes to its technical points. From the beginning scene, we are introduced to a soundtrack that both highlights the film, and also connects with the viewer. We also get to see Hancock successfully use lighting to depict tone in his scenes. The many dark-toned scenes throughout the film are very fitting and well-timed with the mood. As a bonus to this, Hancock hits the “sweet spot” for duration of two hours and five minutes which I believe is ideal for almost all films.
As an Easter egg, Hancock also includes a nod to the famous painting “Nighthawks” by Edward Hooper. This can be seen when Deacon is eating at “Bun N Burger”. So make sure you watch out for that scene!
The Little Things starts out with a very well executed dramatic scene, giving the viewer a true sense that this is a thriller. This is also one of a few scenes where the music was paired especially well, really enhancing the experience. As the story then unfolds, we can quickly see the differences in character between Joe Deacon and Jim Baxter. Much like every other film he’s been in, Washington does a good job at playing “Denzel Washington is….”. Washington is an actor who generally plays himself first, and the character second. Many roles across his many films portray a similar man. A lot of actors would receive this as a negative mark, but not him. Washington always seems to pull it off, and this film is no exception.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said about Malek’s performance. While he makes a solid effort at the role, I feel he fell short in being able to fully bring out the potential of his character. I feel the role would have benefited from a physically bigger, more imposing actor perhaps. This is not a dig against Malek as an actor, as we have seen him breakout in roles played in Mr. Robot and Bohemian Rhapsody. In those films, his delayed and dramatic voice helped add to the performance. Yet in the case of The Little Things, I would have recast the role to someone else; an actor such as Matt Damon or Clive Owen may have worked better. Again, Malek is a great actor, however this role needed a stronger and more assertive actor to play the detective. This was evidenced further in the interrogation scene.
We also see Jared Leto cast again in an area where he truly shines: the grimy villain. Leto does an excellent job portraying the character of Albert Sparma, and his manner of speech is especially effective in giving Sparma an eerie vibe. Another interesting aspect of his character was the curious choice to keep him in the same outfit for the entire film. This added to the mystique of his character, but may also be conveyed to some as a lack of creativity by the costume department.
As the film builds steam, I think it does a good job at playing off the stark differences between Joe Deacon and Jim Baxter. I also enjoyed the artistic direction giving Washington a chance to put some of himself into the role of his character. On multiple occasions, Hancock was able to capture the unconventional style of Deacon’s investigating through camera angle and editing. Though one of those scenes did fall short, I did enjoy Washington’s performance overall.
It’s the little things are are important Jimmy.
It’s the little things that will get you caught.Joe Deacon
We also were able to see a bit of cat and mouse between Washington, Malek, and Leto. This was another highlight of the movie, as a few scenes in particular were done really well. One of my favorites being the car scene on the highway, which made use of the exits in a clever way. All around, I thought the body of the narrative kept the viewer intrigued and attentive, and I enjoyed watching the story unfold.
The biggest letdown for me came in the way The Little Things concluded. I enjoyed the movie in many ways, but feel the ending really failed to provide a satisfying resolution to the film’s story. To say I felt cheated by the way the villain is ultimately dealt with is an incredible understatement, and I think in this regard the film did a great disservice to one of its more interesting characters. I found the ending as a whole both frustrating, yet still tolerable in a few ways. While I do agree that it ties the movie together, I’m not sure how I feel about the way it was accomplished. The ending is definitely a controversial one, and I can see it being quite polarizing among viewers as to whether or not it missed the mark.
While I did feel some dissatisfaction with the film’s ending, I would still recommend seeing it. If you are a Denzel fan like myself, then you will be glad you gave it a chance.