Watching The Little Things feels like a trip down memory lane to a time before the Marvel Cinematic Universe: every month (or so it seemed, anyhow), cinemas would be filled up with police procedurals, serial killer hunts, thrillers with twists and turns, full of thoughtful narratives and commentary on modern society. That time, sadly, has long gone with any that are made these days ending up on streaming platforms, not getting anywhere close to the audiences who flocked to those films of “yesteryear”. So, it’s refreshing to find John Lee Hancock‘s dark, intriguing throwback breaking the drought – or, at least that’s what we thought.
That excitement of having a new film from the sub-genre with three big stars at the forefront quickly wears off, you see, for despite it being something of a throwback, The Little Things feels horribly dated and no amount of fresh approach can make up for that, in addition to the fact that there is barely any connection to any of the characters and you never feel engaged nor bothered by their plight.
From the opening scene, too, you find yourself screaming “No-one acts like this! No-one would do that!” and slowly becoming increasingly frustrated at both the investigation, those trying to solve it, and their decisions. Now, it isn’t without merit this one and you have to admire the unique construct of the film that, ultimately, will frustrate many come its final act but it’s a bold move that deserves some kudos. Hancock delves deeper than some of the counterpoints, focusing on the “little things” rather than the endgame which allows him to plunge into the psychological after-effects of such investigations, how they can consume even the hardest of detectives and leave scars even more disfiguring than the physical ones.
We have three big stars at the top of this one – Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto – all of whom look equally baffled and confused by everything around them and unable to find anything substantial to grab on to, especially in their one-dimensional characters. Out of the three, Washington comes out strongest (then again, he could read the back of a milk carton and make it sound interesting) and is as watchable as ever.
But Malek seems miscast as the detective at the heart of it all, struggling with the demons that will ultimately swallow him up if he is not careful, and makes some particularly bizarre acting choices along the way that detach us even further. Then there’s Leto: he has always been enigmatic and alluring, capable of truly profound work, but you wonder what lured him to this as, when all is said and done, it’s almost as horrendously misjudged as his turn as The Joker. The less said, the better.
There are some aspects of The Little Things, the small nuances and unique melodies, that could have made for an enthralling and different look at the past – in more ways than one – so it’s a shame, then, that there isn’t a real follow through and it ultimately frustrates rather than enlightens. What a waste.
Crime, Drama | USA, 2021 | 15 | Premium VOD | 11th March 2021 (UK) | Warner Bros. Pictures | Dir.John Lee Hancock | Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto,