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Review of HBO Max Drama-Thriller ‘The Little Things’

The little things

THE Netflix drama thriller, “The Little Things”, stars three Oscar-winning actors: Denzel Washington , Rami Malek and Jared Leto. It’s directed by John Lee Hancock, who made such acclaimed films as “The Blind Side”, “Saving Mr. Banks” and “The Highwaymen”. Our expectations were high when we watched it, but fans of the police crime drama genre will surely take note that it’s something already familiar and we’ve seen it before in other police thrillers.

The little thingsThere will be spoilers, so if you have intentions of watching the film, skip this review. The story is set in 1990 and it really looks like a throwback movie. A young woman driving her car is suddenly chased by another car. She stops at a gas station but it’s closed and her stalker is about to close in on her.

She escapes by running to the highway where a truck stops for her and she gets to elude her would be attacker. In Los Angeles, Det. Jimmy Baxter (Rami) is investigating a series of killings of young women and he asks the help of former L.A. detective, Joe Deacon (Denzel), now with Bakersfield Police Department, to help him.

The latest murder case he’s handling is similar to an old case Joe handled some years ago when he was still with LAPD, but which he didn’t succeed in solving. Jimmy learns that Joe got so obsessed with that case then that it caused the break up of his marriage and gave him a heart attack.

While Joe is in L.A., another murder is committed and the method is consistent with the killings of other women. Joe, still haunted by the past, takes a leave from his own position to personally help Jimmy in the current murder cases. His initial detective work leads Joe to Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), an appliance repairman.

He and Jimmy takes Albert for questioning but they have no concrete evidence against him and he intentionally taunts and provokes them, causing Joe to burst and lose his temper. They learn that he is not to be trusted as he has previously admitted a murder and it turns out he didn’t commit it at all.

In their desire to get back a new girl who has been kidnapped, their relationship with Albert becomes odd and complicated. Albert professes he knows the girl’s whereabouts and he convinces Jimmy to drive him to the desert. He asks Jimmy to dig a hole in the sand but after a while, it becomes apparent that he is just messing up with Jimmy.

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This leads to some unsavory complications, with Jimmy doing something egregious. It will be revealed that Joe has also done the same grave mistake before in his his own previous case. There is no doubt that the film is well cast. But the conclusion is cryptic, just like “Seven” by David Fincher, and is hardly satisfying.

The film’s conclusion shows that “The Little Things” is actually a buddy film. Joe sends new buddy Jimmy a red barrette, which was what the kidnapped victim was wearing the night she disappeared. This is to assure Jimmy that he is right in what he did to Albert.

But it’s revealed that Joe just bought the barrette from a store and he didn’t really find it in Albert’s home. This means that the crimes have not really been resolved, and Albert is not the real killer, and whoever the true murderer is may still be out there on the loose.

The good performances of the three lead actors (specially Denzel who’s now older and paunchier) hold the film together as a dark crime thriller with an unsatisfying ending. We’ve seen stories like these about law enforcers who are haunted by their past while trying to solve crimes even in TV crime shows like “Law and Order” or “CSI” and its various versions in different cities, and more recently in the “True Detective” mini-series which is even more well written than this one.

The director of “The Little Things” actually doesn’t know how to handle even the big things to shape his movie into a truly fulfilling murder-mystery. In the end, you get the feeling that, under its sinister exterior and eerie atmosphere, there is nothing truly substantial or earthshakingly original in it.

The title refers to what Joe says are the small details that appear insignificant but actually mean a lot to solve a case. Actually, it seems to be a more apt title for a film on relationships, where the little things often taken for granted by both parties usually result into the disintegration of their marriage or boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

Publication Source :    People's Journal
Mario Bautista
Former member: Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Urian)