“The Little Things” is such a by-the-book police procedural drama that the film doesn’t stand out much. It could be just another season of “True Detective,” or could run together in your memory with dozens of similar crime movies from the last 30 years. The story is familiar, but the ridiculous amount of talent from the Oscar winning cast helps to slightly elevate this routine material.
Veteran sheriff Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) teams up with police Sergeant Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) to search for a serial killer who’s murdering women in the Los Angeles area. With the body count rising, the men begin to focus on a suspect named Albert (Jared Leto), a disturbing and unbalanced man who enjoys toying with the cops. The men go to great lengths to uncover the guilty party, but the investigation brings up a dark history that uncovers some of Deacon’s long-buried secrets.
In terms of psychological crime thrillers, there’s nothing new here. The plot is uncomplicated and direct, and even the surprise reveal isn’t unexpected. Washington is the ideal casting choice as Deacon. He’s a reliable old timer, and there aren’t many actors like him who are working today. He plays well against Malik’s understated brooding, and both are no match for Leto. He’s great at creating crazed psychopath characters, selling the role as an unhinged killer right down to the most intimidating physical mannerisms. The cast is the film’s strongest point.
Director John Lee Hancock makes the awful choice to score scenes with 60’s rock and roll, which is almost as off-putting as the distracting, choppy editing. There are depictions of crime scenes that are gruesome and distressing, giving the film an unsettling vibe. The overall atmosphere is unpleasant, and the film ultimately feels pointless.
“The Little Things” isn’t a total dud by any means, but it’s not one of the best examples of the genre. The screenplay (by Hancock) is written for those who enjoy disciplined crime dramas, and it should satisfy fans who aren’t expecting too much.