The Little Things coast on star power, struggles to leave an impact and takes pleasure in being dull. It’s hard to watch this film without getting thrown off by its odd editing choices and its ability to waste three talented actors. Still, The Little Things is an intriguing film thanks to its three lead stars. Sadly, strong performances from this trio don’t excuse this messy film. A fairly forgettable throwback to the neo-noir genre that is destined to divide audiences.
These types of films have been around for decades and this genre has offered some classics, but The Little Things will not be joining that discussion at the moment. The most frustrating aspect is that a good film is mixed in crying out for attention. Loads of missed opportunities, but it’s a fairly decent character study at times. Directed and written by John Lee Hancock, the film stars Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Isabel Arraiza, and Sofia Vassilieva. The Little Things follows Deke (Washington), a deputy sheriff who teams with Jim (Malek), a young detective working to find a serial killer. Deke struggles to come to terms with an event from his past, as the murders seem familiar to an old case.
Deke is a fun character to follow he has returned to town after some time away and has these odd interactions throughout that are explained as the film progresses. Hancock doesn’t struggle to write interesting characters, but none of them are worth getting invested in despite the film being over two hours. A rather long journey to take with stale characters. Hancock does deliver some development for Deke and Jim throughout, which adds to their progressions, but then it just comes to a halt. The Little Things goes above and beyond to frustrate as you wait for this serial killer mystery to be solved. A cat and mouse angle is introduced halfway through, with the introduction of Albert (Leto), who becomes the prime suspect for Deke and Jim. Again, all three are interesting characters, but none worth caring for in the end or throughout the film.
Washington, Leto, and Malek are doing what you’d expect from academy award winners, but Malek’s performance was by far the weakest. Leto manages to outshine as Albert, the prime suspect who is very reserved, suspicious, and makes you question his innocence. He easily convinces you, Albert, is hiding something, but anyone who has seen these type of films will probably not be too impressed. Washing is terrific as well, but Deke’s character is handled in a very lackluster manner and he is the star of the film. Washington just makes magic out of a rough spot here, and it’s enough to keep you invested. Hancock certainly dropped the ball with the pacing for this outing. The Little Things picks up briefly, then slows, and it never seems to pick back up again.
A very lifeless tale unfolds here, but the actors keep you intrigued as mentioned above. In all fairness, once Leto’s character arrives on the scene the film shows a glimpse of hope at it picking up the pace at times. The first act is by far the most compelling due to the character introductions, teases regarding Deke’s history, and the stage is set for what’s to come in the end between Deke and Jim. The score in this film by Thomas Newman is quite satisfying, particularly at its strongest when Deke is shown reflecting on the crime scenes and past cases he has worked on. A spine-tingling reinforcement to the audience that Deke isn’t at peace with something in his past that slowly unravels.
The Little Things isn’t going to get Washington or any of these academy award winners extra points. The film is a decent, but highly flawed return to the neo-noir genre of crime thrillers. All the star power in the world can’t get you to care about half baked characters and a mystery that some will probably never try to solve again after this first outing. It’s one thing to waste talent, but this was just frustrating to watch far too much at times. The Little Things will keep your attention if your into watching mysteries unravel, but don’t expect a satisfying result overall.