REVIEW: ‘The Little Things’ has little to offer the detective genre

Denzel Washington is once again doing detective work in California but this time, it’s not a training day.

Washington plays Joe Deacon, who casually goes by Deke. A former detective, Deke now works as a sheriff deputy with a normal beat. He mostly stays in his own lane, but at the movie’s start, he’s brought in to give some experienced advice on a new murder case.

The case is being primarily helmed by Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), a young detective who’s already making a name for himself as a talented inspector. While the two are at first not thrilled about working together, they eventually decide they can figure this puzzle out better by working side-by-side. The film explores them doing so and also begins revealing why Deke made a career change.

On paper, “The Little Things” has plenty going for it, including a trio of Academy Award winning actors and a capable director in John Lee Hancock, who also wrote the screenplay. Unfortunately, this one is still a misfire.

“Little Things” always seems to meander without ever seeming to get closer to a satisfying conclusion. The movie has the structure of a detective procedural, but without the enjoyment of seeing a mystery unravel.

As an audience member, one is hoping for a reveal or a clue to be discovered to raise the stakes but all that’s given is the characters brooding, and brooding some more. Even the developments the characters make in the case feel isolated, as if they’re not building to something.

It’s fine that this is a slow burn, but it’s not OK that it’s just dull to sit through after a while.

The ending is an absolute disappointment, too. After watching this whole thing, which runs over two hours, “The Little Things” finishes with a dud, leaving a person to say, “oh, that’s all?”

LittleThingsBlog
Courtesy Warner Bros.

It’s a shame, too, because the tone is enjoyable. “The Little Things” is a very dark and moody cinematic experience, and it works for a a crime drama like this. Yet the storytelling does the atmosphere no favors.

As for the talented cast, it’s a mixed bag. Washington comes off as a bit too subdued here. Yes, his character is a detective who’s witnessed some bad things over the years, but there are times when Deke comes across as a bit too lifeless.

Jared Leto, who plays a suspect in the main case, lays it on a bit too thick. Whether it was the direction or Leto himself, his character just comes across as too awkward and creepy that it feels over the top.

Malek, meanwhile, is ok. He plays a very straightforward, serious detective and he gets that part right. His stoicism does work in some cases, but it seems like it’s all he’s really able to do.

“The Little Things” stumbles too many times to be a satisfying feature, and if not for its talented cast, it would be even more forgettable. The film fails at being shocking and intriguing, becoming a real watch-checking type of movie by the third act. 2 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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