Review: 'The Little Things' Wastes Denzel Washington, Jared Leto and Rami Malek

Little Things Denzel Washington Rami Malek Jared Leto

You would think a psychological thriller starring Denzel Washington, Jared Leto and Rami Malek is a sure bet, but unfortunately the great casting can’t save this uneventful film, THE LITTLE THINGS.

John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “The Founder”) directs THE LITTLE THINGS from his own original screenplay written years ago.

Kern County Deputy Sheriff Deacon (Washington) returns to his old stomping ground at the Los Angeles Police Department to pick up evidence for his jurisdiction, but he’s soon pulled into the hunt for the same serial killer he was unable to catch years earlier. He retired from the department as the lead detective after suffering a heart attack due to his obsession with the case. Detective Baxter (Malek) welcomes Deacon’s expertise with the common goal of capturing the murderer.

What starts out as a crime thriller evolves into a cat and mouse game. The identity of the serial killer occurs too quickly and conveniently. The hunt is over before it really gets started when they set their sights on Albert Sparma (Leto). By the third act, it falls apart with its implausibility and straight up copy of SE7EN. The final twist throws a wrench in the story. The viewer is led to believe one thing but the reveal takes you in a totally new direction.

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Rami Malek The Little Things

Watching Washington on screen is always a pleasure, and here he is no different. You’re invested in his character. It’s less so with Malek’s detective. He comes off as creepy, and you expect some sort of twist but it never materializes. Jared Leto with a wide prosthetic nose and piercing eyes is eerie to look at. He’s someone you don’t want to encounter in the dark.

Most of the suspense comes from Leto toying with the detectives who have gone rogue to capture Sparma. Ironically, Leto said at a press conference for the movie that he thought his character was charming (watch interview). However, he is no Ted Bundy. He’s frightening through and through.

Jared Leto in THE LITTLE THINGS

The detectives go rogue and set out to find evidence of Sparma's guilt. At one point, Detective Baxter does the unthinkable and gets in a car with Sparma leaving his unofficial partner behind. Sparma chats with Baxter as Sparma drives to an unknown location and their conversation echoes that of Kevin Spacey’s killer in SE7EN. Once out of the car in a remote location, Sparma mentions his family and how lucky he is to have such a beautiful wife. Sound familiar. I expected the line, “what’s in the boooooooox” to come up at any minute.

THE LITTLE THINGS feels recycled but what was unique was the parallels between Malek and Washington’s characters. Deacon’s work had taken a physical and emotional toll on his life, and Baxter is following in a similar trajectory. They touch upon it throughout the film, and the finale attempts to address it but it’s too little too late. What you get is an unsatisfactory ending.

THE LITTLE THINGS is playing in movie theaters and on HBO Max. It’s a film you won’t mind watching on HBO Max if you’re already a subscriber, but you may feel differently after paying movie theater prices.

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