“Some things never let us go” is the tagline of the new film THE LITTLE THINGS out in select theaters and streaming today on HBO Max. Problem is, even with three Academy Award winners – Denzel Washington (Training Day, Glory), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) – this film not only struggled to keep my attention, but damn near bored me to death, only to capture my interest mid-way and totally throw it away by the film’s end.

A 90’s set, neo-noir, psychological thriller – with not much emphasis on the latter word – the film follows Sheriff’s Deputy Joe “Deke” Deacon (Washington) to Los Angeles, where he was formerly a star detective, to pick up evidence for a case. While there he becomes intrigued, and subsequently entangled, in a case that current L.A. County Sheriff’s Homicide Department Sergeant Jim Baxter (Malek) is working – with a strange resemblance to a former one Deke worked, that ultimately led to him leaving LA. The two discover a possible break that points to a suspect named Albert Sparma (Leto), who successfully engages the two lawmen in a game of “cat and mouse” until the film’s underwhelming climax.

There will be plenty of comparisons to films like David Fincher’s 1995 hit “Se7en” because that is a greatly executed example of what I believe writer/director John Lee Hancock was reaching for – in a less graphically shocking way. Unfortunately, although I could appreciate the headiness of such an effort, “The Little Things” suffers from not enough thrill to balance the mental work the audience is tasked with managing.

And it should be noted that although Hancock wrote the script in 1992, almost 30 years ago, “Se7en” was the latter of the two, releasing in 1995 – so my mention is for reference only, as this film clearly predates the latter in written form.

When discussing the script, Denzel Washington stated it,

“was a good read, a really interesting story I hadn’t seen before and a
character who was scarred, cynical, guarded… If he ever had any sort of faith, he’s lost it, but he goes on what’s almost a spiritual journey through the sort of hell I think maybe only a cop could understand, and I found that really interesting.”

An interesting statement because the whole time watching I felt that it was probably a way better read – think a more noir version of a James Patterson short story – than it was coming off on screen.

And although the audience doesn’t get the full Leto effect until almost an hour in, by far his character is the most interesting and he portrays him with all the narcissism and edgy creepiness that was required for a potential serial killer.

Yes, I say potential because the question will linger at the film’s end – did he really or didn’t he? – which again makes for an unsatisfying resolution with the amount of mental work, without major pay offs, that’s required.

By the way, if Leto looks drastically different, note that he’s wearing dental and facial prosthetics, and colored contacts, for this role. I think all three leads were phenomenal, but Leto definitely upped the ante in this one for me.

I love John Lee Hancock as a director, “The Founder” is a fave, and a film with Washington, Malek and Leto should have been an automatic stay in the queue and watch frequently type of vibe. Unfortunately, that is far from my truth with this one, as the story doesn’t live up to but rather hinders its own potential with not enough thrilling or focusing on too many random “little things.”  I rate it 2.5 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.

THE LITTLE THINGS is in select theaters and streaming now on HBO Max.

Until next thought, Thomasena


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