Spoilers want a ride-along.
Crime thrillers are not easy. A few of them have stand out from the herd to become memorable, but the more time goes by the higher the chances that they borrow or get inspiration, if you prefer, from the ones that came before. However, you always should transform what you take to make it your own. This is a vague way to say, this is not a bad movie for a bit until it hits the ending. Once we get there I think it exists in the shadow of a previous feature. Let’s get into it.
The Little Things (2021) was written and directed by John Lee Hancock. Small town deputy Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) reluctantly agrees to visit Los Angeles, where he once was a well-known detective, to pick up some evidence for a local case. Forced to stay a few days, he gets asked to help with a serial killer case that has some similarities to a cold case he once worked on. After initially clashing with the young and promising lead detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), he becomes obsessed with the possibility of solving the one crime that he never solved years ago.
Let’s start with the strong points. Denzel Washington is in decent form as naturally gifted detective Joe Deacon. Rami Malek is believable as a by-the-book skilled Jimmy Baxter. There is a tendency to make Joe the loose cannon and Jimmy the logical one. Washington and Malek pull it off for the most part until suspect Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) enters the frame. Perhaps Leto has played this role one too many times, but the way the rest of the movie feels a little too on the nose.
I alluded initially to an inspiration for this film. Perhaps there are many previous films it borrows from. There was enough of an original thought in the characters of Deacon and Baxter, and they were performed as such. But once Leto enters the picture, I felt a rather familiar final dynamic start to form. So familiar that I foresaw the outcome. Making the confrontation devolve in this finale, even with some past reveals, feels a bit forced. We never get a clear picture that the crimes committed are important, yet Deacon has these, for lack of a better word, visions of the victims. The movie made a distinction to establish one girl as a survivor only to dismiss her as a biased witnessed later. None of the possible premises you set up gets used. We do get a somewhat fitting epilogue, but the aftertaste is bitter.
Partially recommended with reservations. Performances are good. Leto plays a very Leto-typed antagonist. But the finale feels like an interruption. Unexpected twists work before you’ve been leading the audience down one path and wind up in another that explains details that were out of place, the little things, as the title implies. But to set expectations and spin a different resolution feels like you picked the finale regardless of whatever was being built in the narrative. The epilogue fits a lot better. Perhaps worth a watch if you don’t mind much the finale.
That will do for now.