The truth of it all is rarely a simple thing…
While The Little Things has on its surface the trappings of a fairly generic serial killer/cop thriller when you let it sink a little deeper what you see is a really interesting character study of the men who are tasked with solving some of the most heinous crimes and the places that these things can push them to.
Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) is sent to Los Angeles for what should have been a quick evidence-gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes embroiled in the search for a killer who is terrorizing the city. Leading the hunt, L.A. Sheriff Department Sergeant Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), impressed with Deke’s cop instincts, unofficially engages his help. But as they track the killer, Baxter is unaware that the investigation is dredging up echoes of Deke’s past, uncovering disturbing secrets that could threaten more than his case.
The Little Things is a story that is really all about the shades of grey that you encounter when having to confront the face of evil in the form of some heinous crimes.
While we’ll admit that writer/director John Lee Hancock is borrowing a myriad of beats from the serial killer/cop thriller genre, he’s at least borrowing all the good ones. And while usually these films are about the search for the serial killer this film takes a very specific tact at giving us a glimpse at the men who are wearing the badges and sifting through the muck to find the truth.
The film looks like a million bucks from top to bottom and while the script has a little bit of excess to it, the story moves with a decent flow throughout. The story beats can be a little clunky and you will see them coming from a mile away, but that’s OK because the ultimate strength of this film comes in its top heavy casting.
Denzel Washington could read the phone book at this stage and we’d still love it, but here as Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon we see a man who was comfortable in his exile from the harder nature of police work until a chance for a silver of redemption came into his world and he couldn’t let it go. Denzel is fantastic at being broken but still a man of action all at the same time. He carries the screen with such ease that we often take it for granted seeing him as a sage mentor that we want to listen to no matter what.
Rami Malek slides in next to him effortlessly as the young and ambitious sergeant looking to take down the bad guys and he has a really interesting dynamic opposite Denzel, especially for Deke who can see what he USED to be in this young man. They make for a great duo and while you can project the tone of what’s going to happen down the line in all this, you can’t really understand it until the very end.
Jared Leto can play weird in his sleep and he does so here exceptionally well, walking the line between sinister and sarcastic in a high intelligent pas de deux with these two law enforcement officers which he doing more than anything for the pure thrill and fun of it. That’s the really scary part in all of this. Sadly it all drops of a cliff ensemble wise after these three leads and the film could have used a couple more familiar faces to help give the proceedings a little extra gravitas.
Without spoiling too much, this film has an ending that’s more than a little messy, but that’s the point. The Little Things is a reminder that you need to focus on those things in order to be able to survive in a job where you are staring down evil at every given turn. In the good days and especially in the bad ones while on the job of removing a killer from the city streets.
Here in Canada, The Little Things is available as a premium rental on all VOD services. It’s the same in the States but is also available to all HBO Max subscribers for 30 days starting this Friday Jan. 29th.