The Little Things

This movie is okay. In fact it’s one of the okay-est movies I’ve seen. Denzel Washington is great as a haunted man. Jared Leto is surprisingly good as an unhinged creeper. The story is gritty and cynical, but it all amounts to an okay night at the movies.

The Little Things is a neo-noir crime thriller. It is set in LA in 1990 and follows Deputy Sheriff Deacon played by Denzel Washington. He returns to his old precinct in LA on a routine forensics pickup when he comes across Jimmy Baxter the precincts new golden boy, played by Rami Malek. Baxter is working a serial killer case that reminds Deacon of a case he failed to solve years ago. Deacon once again becomes absorbed by the case and his past failures begin to haunt him. He goes over the edge and takes Baxter with him when they find a creepy creeper named Albert Sparma played by Jared Leto.

Things I loved about the movie start with Denzel Washington. He conveys with a single look a man who has evil inside him that he is wrestling with every moment. He’s pretty subdued here, but he is a solid anchor in this movie.

Jared Leto is not someone I usually like, however here he brings just the right off kilter energy to give the movie a proper jolt. I liked the balance he strikes between weirdo who loves true crime and is enjoying the attention of the police and serial killer toying with the officers. It’s the just the right performance to offset Washington and Malek.

I also liked how cynical the movie is about the darker aspects of police work. This isn’t a who done it or a procedural so much as a look at what this type of obsessive case work does to a person. It also doesn’t offer any easy answers or explanations. This will no doubt frustrate viewers who are looking for a solid conclusion or answer to the central mystery.

I have a couple of big problems with the film. The one that annoyed me the most was the fact that it’s shot without any particular style. It’s a crime thriller that takes place in the grittiest grimiest parts of LA, yet it’s shot in a clean almost clinical fashion. Deacon stays in a seamy hotel yoh can rent by the hour, yet it looks like about any other hotel out there. The camerawork is clean and bright without any real expression behind the composition or lighting. It’s supposed to be a study of Washington’s tortured psyche, yet the camerawork doesn’t give a single clue as to what he’s feeling or thinking. There’s no subjectivity in the camera. There’s no point of view on its main character.

My biggest problem is narrative. Deacon is tortured by a case from his past. The nature of that case is kept secret. Everyone hints at it, but it is saved for the denouement. By saving it for the end the revelation becomes a plot twist rather than a main motivating force for our main character. It turns what should have been a powerful narrative force into a quick surprise moments before the movie ends. I don’t like to play what if’s, but I keep how much stronger the film would be if we knew what was driving Deacon from the start. I just felt the movie offered a only surface level examination of its characters psychology. If you’re not going to focus on the procedure or dive too deep into the psychology, what are you left with? Some good performances in an okay movie.

This is a movie that I liked well enough, but I probably won’t watch it again. It has an exciting opening sequence that’s I’d watch again. I always love Denzel. It has a cynical point of view that works for this story. But in the end I don’t need to watch it again. It won’t do you any harm to watch it. You won’t feel like you wasted your time with it, but it won’t blow you away. It’s currently in theaters and streaming on HBO max.

It’s like half a cup of warm tea for me. B

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