The Little Things is written and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Founder). It follows Deacon (Denzel Washington) and Baxter (Rami Malek), two detectives investigating a series of murders of young women. As they get deeper into the case, Deacon gets pulled back into a world he had to leave under mysterious circumstances. The film’s story plays out in 1990s Los Angeles.
The movie’s weakest link is its script. Written by Hancock in 1993, the film feels dated and fails to add anything new to the genre. For a film called The Little Things, it’s reasonable to expect a film which pays attention to details while delivering a compelling story. Instead, we are left to watch the inner struggles of characters with the all too important rule “show don’t tell” rule constantly being broken. In one instance, Baxter, the young detective, just has to point out how the pictures of the missing women on Deacon’s wall are a sign of him being obsessed.
Another sign of the script being outdated is, sadly, its treatment of the victims. The women, all young and attractive, are treated as motivations, rather than actual people. This is sadly common in police stories and can be an indication of an underdeveloped backstory. Ultimately, we are asked to connect with the man who failed to protect them, rather than the victims themselves. And while the weight of police work would have been a compelling emotional link to the story, the insight simply isn’t there. All the viewer is left with, is a tepid look at this topic.
This is partly due to the structure of the script, which spends way too much time setting up a dynamic we have seen countless times. That between Deacon, the old-style detective, and Baxter, the up-and-coming star of the department. Despite this kind of relationship being a proven success, the film still fails to portray it in any convincing manner. Particularly jarring is the first time Deacon arrives at Baxter’s house, where he’s treated like an old friend, an entirely undeserved title.
What makes the movie even more disappointing is the wasted potential of the casting. Denzel Washington as a police officer who has seen too much, Rami Malek his young disciple and Jared Leto as a creep? A seemingly promising prospect. They do deliver something genuinely interesting, particularly Washington and Leto. However, the incredibly dull story only allows for brief moments of depth. Most of the time, these characters are stuck in stereotypes which prevent them from making any real impact on the viewer.
The most noticeable fault is the film’s slow pacing. All the moments of silence, the solemn looks. They don’t serve any purpose other than attempting to fulfil the promise of a noir. The reason why the pacing does not work for this movie is its emptiness. It lacks original insight and an interesting story, making that slow pacing a pointless waste of time, rather than a welcome opportunity to reflect on the film’s message.
What’s worse than being stuck in a conversation with someone who thinks they are deeper than they actually are? Too shallow for a noir and too dull for a mystery, the inspired casting is not enough to make up for this outdated drag. A painfully slow watch that fails to provide any original insight or emotional depth. Despite a great cast, there’s just not enough here to substitute for the lack of substance.
Words by Elisabetta Pulcini
Support The Indiependent
We’re trying to raise £200 a month to help cover our operational costs. This includes our ‘Writer of the Month’ awards, where we recognise the amazing work produced by our contributor team. If you’ve enjoyed reading our site, we’d really appreciate it if you could donate to The Indiependent. Whether you can give £1 or £10, you’d be making a huge difference to our small team.