TL;DR – A film where the lack of consistency and drive leave you wondering what went wrong.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.
The Little Things Review –
There are times when you see a cast list and a concept, and you have a level of excitement because all of these factors should lead to a solid film. However, this is not always the case as there can be a myriad of reasons what a film does not stick the landing. Well, today we look at just such a movie filled with Oscar-winning actors that all seem to be in different films.
So to set the scene, we open with a young lady driving home down a dark street in an isolated stretch of the Southern Californian countryside. Then a car approaches from behind and forces her off the road near a diner. As she bangs on the closed doors for someone to hear her, the assailant opens the boot of his car to retrieve a bat and duct tape. The next day we come to Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington), a Kern County Deputy Sheriff, and someone clearly too old to be in such a low position. He is tasked to drive back to his old posting in Los Angeles to pick up some evidence for a court case. When there, he is roped back into his old homicide department by the new guy LASD Det. Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) because there is a murderer on the loose.
While as you will see as we move on, I was very lukewarm on this film, which is not to say that there were no gems here and there. For example, that whole opening scene was filled with tension with you wondering how each moment was going to play out. The first half of the film is filled with moments like this and some oddly placed humour that also strangely works. The musical score from Thomas Newman was spot on and did more of the heavy lifting regarding the tone that any other part of the film. The cinematography and editing were also spot-on in locations.
One of the places where the film goes wrong is in its structure, in that it is designed around three very different lead characters. You have the old world-wise cop that got booted out of his department and is haunted by his failures. You have the new up and coming protégée that is the department’s face and might have bitten off more than he can chew with this case. You also have the off-putting Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) as the maybe murder just floating around this film being weird. Could you have made that work, yes, but not with this cast. I am not sure what Denzel was going for, but it felt like he was sleep-walking through this film. Rami spent most of the film mumbling as if he was still wearing the prosthetics from Bohemian Rhapsody, and frankly, it felt like Jared was in a completely different film that only he knew about.
The other place this film does not work is in its application of tone. While I am still not used to period films being set in the 1990s, a world where not everyone has mobile phones is an excellent place to put a movie like this. I say not everyone, because so much of this film has the police running to the nearest payphone as if the radio was not invented or like they wouldn’t have phones because they did during this time. It is all these little things that are not big problems on their own, but they combine together to make the film frustrating. There is the hidden-box mystery that something else is going on, but the film uses this for so many different things that just go nowhere.
A good example of this is all the references to religion that are so in your face to suggest “This is important”, but in reality it is nothing. Or the film being coy as to who the killer/killers/etc. are to the point that you just stop caring. I mean even the bad digital cars they use on the wide shots become frustrating after a while. Look I am okay with a film that is a slow burn, but you know eventually even a slow burn has to get somewhere.
In the end, do we recommend The Little Things? Honestly, no, I don’t think we can. There are some excellent/weird moments here that I am sure will make an entertaining YouTube compilation video one day. However, I am not sure if it worth sitting through the rest of the film to get to those moments. If you liked The Little Things, I would also recommend to you another Neo-Noir film Bad Times at the El Royale.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Little Things
Directed by – John Lee Hancock
Written by – John Lee Hancock
Music by – Thomas Newman
Cinematography by – John Schwartzman
Edited by – Robert Frazen
Production/Distribution Companies – Gran Via Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures & Universal Pictures
Starring – Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Chris Bauer, Michael Hyatt, Terry Kinney, Natalie Morales, Isabel Arraiza, Joris Jarsky, Glenn Morshower, Sofia Vassilieva, Jason James Richter, John Harlan Kim, Frederick Koehler, Judith Scott & Maya Kazan
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R