Directed by John Lee Hancock, The Little Things follows a detective and an ex-detective now deputy investigating a series of murders in Los Angeles involving brutalized women. Frustrated without a single chargeable suspect, both men soon find themselves in a worse situation than before.
The premise sounds a lot like Se7en and audiences have been fairly vocal about it. I, however, will not be making any comparisons to David Fincher’s classic. The Little Things has much to talk about apart from the obvious inspirations. I really can’t complain if a remake is successful. However, this film fails miserably to stand on its own let own pay homage to one of the best crime thrillers of all time.
Honestly, there is very little that works to any degree in the movie. Jared Leto’s performance is by far the best thing about it but it still doesn’t warrant watching everything else. His character is also probably the only one that makes sense. His actions have sound reason and I was particularly invested in the ambiguity around him. That’s probably all the praise I can give the film. Denzel Washington and Rami Malek also do the best they can despite often having to work with poor dialogue. It’s a no-brainer, the cast is great.
What didn’t work
The rest is a rushed pointless effort at making an unconventional thriller that never establishes what it’s actually about. I won’t spoil anything but if you do intend to watch it, it’s best you set your expectations right. This isn’t a story that’s interested in catching the bad guy. It’s a story about what an investigation does to a cop, emotionally and psychologically. Keep that in mind and maybe you’ll like the movie more than I did. What’s crucially missing from the movie is that I as the viewer never felt the helplessness the two men felt. The movie never emphasizes it and it’s probably the biggest issue with the script. For the movie to work as intended, one must be genuinely invested in these two characters rather than the case. Only then can we accept a conclusion that doesn’t end with finding the culprit.
Rami Malek’s Baxter is the promising new detective and Denzel Washington’s Deke is the experienced ex-detective. Deke’s involvement with the case feels a lot more personal and investing as compared to Baxter’s. Baxter unfortunately just feels like he is probably in for a promotion. Baxter’s vulnerabilities or his sense of urgency is never on the story’s mind. From what I can remember, he probably just followed Deke around rather than contributing something himself. This oversight on one of the two leads ultimately results in a very dumb final act. Silly enough that it’s probably one of the stupidest I’ve seen in a detective thriller yet.
If it ain’t broke
Incessant cuts plague this movie throughout its length. Probably done with the intention of making the pace faster or the dialogue feel snappier. There are more than a handful of scenes where I just wish i felt immersed and could take a slow breath. A scene with an intense stare-down followed by some intense gestures is cut so poorly that I never got the sense that it even occured. In just one or two cuts, it could’ve easily been a scene worth remembering just because of the talent on screen. If not within just one scene, the film makes no effort to transition from one scene to the next making this world feel hollow.
The Little Things is always in a hurry to get somewhere and in the end, goes in a completely different direction, featuring what is probably the silliest final act I’ve seen in a detective thriller yet. Jared Leto’s memorable performance isn’t enough to save a boring and implausible script that can barely stand on its own let alone do justice to its evident inspiration.