‘The Little Things’ Review: Both the Good and Bad of Crime Thrillers

From the director of light-hearted family dramas like “The Blind Side” and “Saving Mr. Banks” comes… a dark noir centered on a series of unsolved murders.

“The Little Things” stars Denzel Washington as a seasoned sheriff’s deputy who helps an LAPD detective (Rami Malek) solve a series of recent murders. Jared Leto and Natalie Morales also star, while John Lee Hancock writes and directs.

Much like “Wonder Woman 1984” a month ago, this film was moved by Warner Bros. into a simultaneous theatrical and HBO Max release. It’s kind of a messy situation, which is fitting for a film that has some good things about it but just as much working against it.

Denzel Washington will never turn in a *bad* performance, but in this he’s kind of just… there. Rami Malek gives his second straight bad performance after “Bohemian Rhapsody” playing a detective who apparently is always clenching his cheeks (picture the Blue Steel look from “Zoolander”). Jared Leto is actually creepy and darkly humorous as the number one suspect, even if at times he’s in a different movie than everyone else.

Mood-wise, this is a pretty effective neo-noir thriller. I really enjoyed the cinematography and hypnotic musical score. The film never quite makes the frame ooze with disgust or grit like “Se7en” (one of many things that film did well that this film can’t recapture), but Hancock is able to have things stay at a pretty consistent beat the whole way through.

That being said, there are a few scenes of Washington seeing the ghosts of the girls whose murders he never solved that took me out of it for a moment; I wish it had stayed with the brooding realism. I know everyone will compare this film to David Fincher’s “Se7en” or “Zodiac” and they wouldn’t be wrong, but one thing those films wisely did was hide the suspect from us until the detectives themselves found him. But because Jared Leto is such a big name, it would be impossible (or at least financially unwise) to not put him in the trailers, which takes us out of the early investigation scenes since we know who they’ll eventually be looking for.

The ending leaves more to be desired, too. Things are somewhat-wrapped up but Hancock also wants to have an ambiguous climax. So much like the other serial killer/cold case/personal demons themes he wants to take on, the film bites off more than it can chew. When all said and done, “The Little Things” would probably be a disappointment if I saw it in theaters, but with a group huddled around the TV on a Friday night, I can’t truly complain with the end result.

Critics Rating: 6/10

Warner Bros.

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