‘The Little Things’ spins up entertaining murder mystery with iconic cast

Noah Levine

The Joker, Mr. Robot and Alonzo from “Training Day” unite for an unsettling crime investigation premiering in theaters and on HBO Max starting Friday. 

“The Little Things” is the newest psychological thriller from writer and director John Lee Hancock. The film follows two cops, Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) and Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), who are on the hunt for a dangerous serial killer in California. Along their investigation, the duo cross paths with an unsettling suspect named Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) who only complicates their case. Sporting an Oscar-winning cast, Hancock’s crime feature embraces the playground of the detective genre to produce entertaining yet limited results. 

Joe Deacon, a former detective reeling with a difficult history, is a character that only allows the talented Washington a limited amount of freedom. The failed detective archetype has been portrayed on-screen countless times before, and unfortunately, Washington’s interpretation isn’t any different. It sufficiently serves the narrative, but there aren’t any moments that allow Washington to really express his acting chops. 

Jim Baxter is the newer, well-respected detective assigned to the current murder case. For the majority of the film, his character comes off as very stoic and self-absorbed, resulting in a lot of flat and unsettling exchanges. Malek’s chemistry alongside Washington’s Deacon is definitely interesting, although it feels a bit hollow. Only at a certain moment in the plot is Baxter able to let his facade down, resulting in a more complex and vulnerable performance from Malek. 

While his character isn’t on-screen as much as advertised, Leto’s Albert Sparma is one of the highlights of the film. His strange body language combined with the timid yet provocative dialogue delivery makes for some darkly comedic moments. The bizarreness plays well off of the overtly serious performances from Malek and Washington. His appearance towards the middle of the film provides a much-needed burst of energy to kick off the back half of the narrative. 

“The Little Things” revolves around a pretty typical serial murder crime plot. Detectives struggle to nail down a prime suspect as bodies pile up and the public presses for answers. Hancock’s approach to this type of story is more heavily rooted in the complexities (or lack thereof) of its characters as opposed to the actual investigation of the murder.  

While the dialogue and narrative choices sometimes feel undeveloped or rushed, “The Little Things” is luckily complemented by excellent scoring and cinematography. The chilling soundtrack infuses suspense throughout the film and unique camera angles twist perspective on several high-stakes moments. On the other hand, the film certainly would have benefitted from a grungier and darker visual style, as many visuals feel almost too “clean” for the world of the film. 

“The Little Things” is an enjoyable, yet flawed experience held together by an intriguing cast and strong visuals. 

3 little things out of 5