The Little Things

 

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Three Oscar-winners square off in a disquieting throwback to 90s’ psychological crime drama.

   

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Brothers in law: Denzel Washington and Rami Malek 

 

Having directed only eight films in three decades, John Lee Hancock leaves behind ‘true-life’ tales – such as the supercalifragilistic Saving Mr. Banks and the meaty biopic The Founder – for a new work of 90s neo-noir nostalgia. Returning to a script written nearly thirty years prior, Hancock finally brings the long gestating project to the screen in the capable hands of Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto. And look out for Leto, who recently landed Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild best supporting actor nominations for his unsettling, helter skelter performance. Like a long-lost member of the Manson family, Leto’s Albert Sparma is the shudder-inducing adherent that grafts the events of Hancock’s The Little Things. 

 

When deputy sheriff Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) returns to his former stomping grounds to collect a piece of evidence, he meets the young rookie detective (Rami Malek) who took his place. Deacon tags along on a murder investigation bearing similarities to a haunting unsolved case from his past. When a second murder follows the same pattern, Deacon remains in town and begins an investigation of his own, eventually leading him to the eerie Albert Sparma (Jared Leto). When the FBI are called in to take over, veteran and rookie team up against the clock to pin down their perpetrator. 

 

Although The Little Things retains the engaging feeling of a throwback thriller for the first and second act, it’s the deviation from that formula that both sets the film apart and leads to disappointment. While the shift is an interesting flip on the genre, the film doesn’t devote enough time to the consequences. Current conversations surrounding law enforcement could have informed a much richer conclusion. The toll taken by investigative police work, as well as actions taken outside of the law, are presented, but never reach deep enough to make a lasting impact. Washington and Malek make a compelling buddy cop team. Indeed, the performances are solid across the board, including Michael Hyatt and Natalie Morales, who simply don’t have enough to do. The score is identifiably Newman, who adds ominous tones to the proceedings. Watch for an homage to the late actor Brandon Lee, a friend of Hancock’s, who after reading the script said, “I have to be in this movie”. Thirty years later, Hancock makes good on his promise to put a word in with the director.

 

CHAD KENNERK

 

Cast: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Chris Bauer, Michael Hyatt, Terry Kinney, Natalie Morales, Isabel Arraiza, Joris Jarsky, Glenn Morshower, Sofia Vassilieva, Judith Scott, Jeff Corbett, Lee Garlington.

 

Dir John Lee Hancock, Pro Mark Johnson and John Lee Hancock, Screenplay John Lee Hancock, Ph John Schwartzman, Pro Des Michael Corenblith, Ed Robert Frazen, Music Thomas Newman, Costumes Daniel Orlandi.

 

Gran Via Productions-Warner Bros.

128 mins. USA. 2021. US Rel: 29 January 2021. Cert. 15.