The Little Things (3 stars)

The Little Things

Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto head up a 90s-style serial killer thriller

Unfolding in the 90s and unashamedly evoking that era's serial killer thrillers, of which there were many, The Little Things boasts a hell-of-a lead trio for what appears to be a by-the-numbers genre flick. Oscar-winners Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto vie for your attention in a film where everyone seems to be trying to out act each other.

Washington plays Joe 'Deke' Deacon, a former hotshot detective who left his Los Angeles workplace in ignominious circumstances. Now a Kern County deputy sheriff, this difficult but well-admired character is sent back to his old stomping ground for some routine evidence-gathering but, whilst there, his interest is piqued by an ongoing serial killer case, which recalls an unsolved investigation that has haunted him ever since.

Bohemian Rhapsody's Malek is young 'dick' Jim Baxter, the lead detective on the case, playing him in a way that's mildly mad and wildly inconsistent (and incongruously bringing a touch of his Freddie Mercury to the table). He takes Baxter from insufferably cocksure to a benign family man, desperate to collaborate with Deacon; despite his bountiful self-assurance, he's shown as lacking any investigative nous whatsoever. Later, Jared Leto pops up as a creepy repair guy suspect.

The director of the mawkish Saving Mr Banks and The Blind Side, John Lee Hancock, isn't the obvious man for the job (he also pens the screenplay) and he certainly doesn't deliver much in the way of tension. The Little Things is, however, a very handsome film, kudos to DoP John Schwartzman (Jurassic World) for his work. Although Washington is going through the motions, his screen presence is undimmed; he can, one suspects, quite literally do this in his sleep. As Malek tries and fails to outshine him, eventually it's the Golden Globe-nominated Leto who sneaks in and comes out on top; his performance isn't subtle either, yet he manages to project something genuinely unsettling.

This very derivative, nostalgia-heavy, though still entertaining film (which nods most obviously to the never-bettered Se7en) manages to last most of its duration without producing anything narratively out of the ordinary. But, just when you've written it off, a few original ideas emerge in its final stretch. If only it had tried to impress us a little sooner.

Available to watch on premium video on demand from Thu 11 Mar.

The Little Things

  • 3 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 2h 8min
  • 15
  • Directed by: John Lee Hancock
  • Written by: John Lee Hancock
  • Cast: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Natalie Morales
  • UK release: 11 March 2021

Deputy Sheriff Deacon (Denzel Washington) has been sent to Los Angeles to gather evidence on what is supposed to be a quick and easy assignment. Instead, he becomes deeply involved in the hunt for a terrifying killer stalking the city.