Former homicide detective ‘Deke’, now Deputy Sheriff bands with fresh off the block Detective Baxter (Rami Malik) to hunt down a serial killer that is tormenting the city of Angels. The investigation is fostering echoes into Deacon’s past. Or simply put in a more broader fashion to emphasise several points in my review; ‘The Little Things’ centres around an old big timer turned small timer joining forces with a reflection of his own youth to clash with an embodiment of pure psychotic evil. Have you heard that from somewhere (or several) narratives prior to reading this? If so, I shall enlighten you by reminding you of where in the upcoming paragraphs.
In a world where the crime thriller genre acts as the Sahara desert and ‘The Little Things’ is a 2 hour rainfall, everything is copasetic. If only this was reality, trains would run on time, there would be no coronavirus, we would all be on a Sunny holiday in the Bahamas with free drinks and “chilled vibes”. Sadly, two time Oscar nominee John Lee Hancock laid another identical brick in a vast, wide, high wall.
I’ll give ‘TLT’ the benefit of the doubt and Indulge (briefly) in its positives. Thomas Newman’s score is its own character, breathing an arresting aura that coats each sequence in a neo-noir, eccentric atmosphere; giving the film life and personality. The style of the music compliments the style, scope and look of ‘The Little Things’ and is one of the many little things that help this film chug along a painfully long track. John Schwartzman shot the motion picture in digital which explains the modern glossiness. However, even to me, a guy that prefers film, ‘The Little Things’ is a beautiful looking treat. Partly due to the sublime colour pallet, the euphoric camera glare and neon lighting; but nevertheless thanks to the crystal clear, immaculate lens, and eye for arresting photography.
In addition to the look and sound of ‘The Little Things’, throwing in three Oscar winning performers to the mix electrifies the experience which would have otherwise been a straight to a 99p bargain bin DVD. Denzel Washington is one of the most watchable, charismatic actors of all time. Chuck a gun at him and sit him in a local diner and he’ll be instantly enticing. Despite him being so flawless in everything he does, the way Hancock utilises him in this project gives off a strong laissez-faire attitude. Washington was given a juicy $20 million upfront and his lines include doing the criminally cringe-inducing by using the title of the film and inserting it in dialogue as a mantra; an act writers play with to sound intelligent and add sophistication and philosophical undertones to what in reality, is rather surface level. Pushing that infamous injustice aside; Washington’s Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon is the reason I’d suggest watching the movie. Every scene he is in he completely dictates, whether that be his witty brilliance, his perfect timing or his biological charm, Denzel attends the party with a titanium, thousand dollar replica of the Batman suit, whereas his acting counterparts merely turn up with hockey pads. Furthermore, unfortunately the way Denzel conducts himself in certain sequences, appears more freakishly perverted and villainous, whilst Hancock is trying to side us with him and find a sense of domesticity with his father like traits.
Jared Leto is the craziest he has ever been, while at times over performing and having the laughs pointed at him not with him. This is what his incarnation of the Joker should have been in 2016’s ‘Suicide Squad’. With the odd line sounding awkwardly out of place, Leto definitely won’t be up for any academy awards as his limited screen presence doesn’t offer enough insight into his inner workings and doesn’t flesh out his character to the extent it needs to to give us a reason to dislike him. Effectively, Leto’s supposedly serial killer ‘Albert Sparma’ is Jared Leto playing Jared Leto, he’s mad, flamboyant and entertaining.
Rami Malek looks the part in his suit and tie, holding a gun up to people and shouting at them life or death instructions; it’s just a shame his performance and facial expressions meet the criteria for what makes a creepy murderer instead of a detective. Although this could be a damaging film for Washington’s future (unlikely though), this is beneficial for Malek as a fresher face in Hollywood as he is at an age where his career can only climb. The onscreen chemistry Malek and Washington share is magnetic; reminiscent of that between Freeman and Pitt in ‘Se7en’.
‘The Little Things’ shares a disastrous similarity with the way Christopher Nolan approaches his work, especially post ‘Batman Begins’, the only difference is, Nolan succeeds and is the proprietor of modern day cinematic montage. Nolan’s style of cutting is all over ‘The Little Things’ like a rash. Jarringly, we constantly jump around the same location, the camera is continuously and constantly occupying us with new angles that despite intended to be fresh, they appear more irrational. A film like ‘Se7en’, oh I apologise, I meant ‘The Little Things’ which is a slow burn serial killer drama needed to be static to hold my attention. This isn’t soviet Montage or a directorial effort by Alfred Hitchcock, this is John Lee Hancock’s (the man who is responsible for the ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ screenplay), poor and dated copy of a mystery thriller we have seen time and time again, a genre that dates back to the start of cinema.
Defining the Film
It’s a throwback to 90’s cop thrillers, but it isn’t! ‘The Little Things’ is a 90’s cop thriller. The screenplay was written and pitched in that decade and sat on a shelf ever since it’s existence was turned down by every man and his dog from it’s 1993 inception. Having the possibility of being helmed by Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and even Danny DeVito, eventually, Hancock had to put his own pieces together and do it himself. Apparently the film is set in this time period too, a factor I had no knowledge off until doing research after viewing the film. I assumed it was set in the present with archaic dialogue; everything is far too polished and modern for anyone to guess it’s set date (other than the beautiful cars). It has all the traits of a picture from the era, a neo-noir, medium budget slow burn about two flawed men of power taking the law into their own hands with grizzly consequences.
It’s the little things that make ‘The Little Things’ a painful struggle to sit through. The performances, cinematography, music and colour are astounding; the script, similarities to other significantly better films, pacing, length and ending are at fault for its instant demise. With big YouTube critics and personalities like Grace Randolph from ‘Beyond the Trailer’ telling fans to miss out on it and interviewers focusing more on Jared Leto’s performance in a film not out for another month with only a split second of known screen time from a new trailer (and before that a blurry image, for Zack Snyder’s Justice League), ‘The Little Things’ seems to have become a parody of itself with anyone of any importance and dictation over what the mainstream consume telling us to stay clear of it, whether it be literally or focusing our attention on a lager scale, big budget superhero popcorn flick.
It’s nearly an impossibility to refrain from drawing connections ‘The Little Things’ shares with David Fincher films. Fincher’s crime thrillers take the audience away from who killed somebody, and focus their attention on why they did it and the psychology of a mad man. John Lee Hancock takes everything that makes a Fincher film masterful, waters it down, passes it on as his own whilst leaving a ‘Se7en’ watermark on it.
For anyone that’s seen ‘Se7en’, ‘True Detective’ ‘Mindhunter’ ‘Insomnia’ ‘Manhunter’ ‘The Usual Suspects’ ‘Zodiac’ and/or ‘L.A Confidential’, you’ll be bored by the insufferable copycat nature ‘The Little Things’ shares with greater, more memorable and intellectual masterpieces. If you’re a neophyte to the genre and sub-genres, you may even be led to believe ‘The Little Things’ is a beautifully made, carefully constructed, psychological experience as its artistic “intentions”, in an observation from the naked eye is clear, but when you view it under the microscope, there’s nothing original to it, there Is no charm, uniqueness, intelligence and besides the pretty lights and perfectly adequate performances, there’s no enjoyment to be had.