After sitting through The Little Things, the second release from Warner Bros. as part of their new simultaneous-theater-and-streaming-release strategy, I’m reminded of a scene from The Simpsons.
During one of their numerous attempts to brainwash the citizens of Springfield into joining their cult, the Movementarians show a film dedicated to communicating their message to new members. However, during the film, Homer recounts a completely different story to his cult handlers, confessing that he has a short attention span and thus makes up his own movies in his head when bored.
With The Little Things, I found myself in a similar position, though less bored and more confused. While the film is interesting to a fault, I admit I had to pause and step away from the picture periodically, to the point where by the time I reached the credits, I couldn’t tell how anything added up.
This post-viewing confusion could be chalked up to my own personal attention span issues, but those would only serve as a scapegoat for The Little Things’ inconsistent storytelling.
In The Little Things, Denzel Washington is former Detective-turned-Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon who returns to Los Angeles in pursuit of a lead in a murder case tied to a pair of boots taken as evidence. After arriving in the City of Angels, Deke sticks around to help his de facto replacement Jimmy Baxter, played by Rami Malek, solve a series of murders.
In regards to his own case, Deke soon fixes his sights on eccentric repairman Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) who seems to fit the killer’s profile and works in the vicinity of the murder scenes. Sparma also appears to know more than he should and taunts the two cops every chance he gets.
But does that make him the killer? That’s one of many unanswered questions posed by this film and explored by characters going in circles.
Actors Acting in Cars Getting Coffee
The Little Things features a lot of driving, particularly down city streets and highways, especially when Deke is behind the wheel. Sometimes he’s pursuing somebody, other times he is followed by Sparma. Periodically, the unseen stalker, who may or may not be Sparma, can be seen quietly tailgating a woman jogging. In a few scenes, they drive to a payphone only to find Sparma waiting there, eager to show the detective that he’s onto them.
Leto is earning nominations for his performance but, to be honest, while he does a decent job, he is essentially just playing himself. Say what you want about his Joker in the DCEU, but at least that role was a transformation from his regular persona.
Denzel has the same problem. Though he commands the screen, he’s been in dozens of similar roles in a dozen similar crime thrillers, with a good number of them, such as The Equalizer, coalescing better than this one.
As far as Rami Malek, his performance is also pretty standard, though reminiscent of his work in Bohemian Rhapsody, as it’s hard not to see him as Freddie Mercury even though he’s not wearing false teeth or brandishing a mustache.
Put Your John Hancock on There
Little Things is written and directed by John Lee Hancock, the same creative who delivered such films as Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side, and what is quite possibly his best work as a director, The Founder. While Hancock has made some memorable films, most of his selections are hit or miss, though they all undoubtedly feature at least one or two interesting elements.
This picture, much like Hancock’s historically accurate remake of The Alamo (2004), falls into the latter category, presenting what is at best an intriguing misfire. A lot happens to pull you in, but you’re never sure if it will go anywhere or if it will end up as a waste of time by the film’s end. After all, it’s left pretty ambiguous who the killer is, and the meaning behind the film’s symbolism is never made quite clear.
Ultimately, The Little Things does a poor job, ironically, of proving why the little matter. In fact, the film does as much to prove this point as Wonder Woman 1984 taught viewers why you shouldn’t cheat to win, which is to say, not at all.
That said, so far, Warner Bros. is 0-for-2 with its dual releases.
While The Little Things is currently available to view in theaters and, until the end of the month, for streaming on HBO Max, your time would probably be better spent with any of the number of quality films available starring the same actors.