Deke (Denzel Washington), a burnt-out Kern County, CA deputy sheriff teams up with Baxter (Rami Malek), a crack LASD detective, to nab a serial killer. Deke’s nose for the “little things” proves eerily accurate, but his willingness to circumvent the rules embroils Baxter in a soul-shattering dilemma. Meanwhile, Deke must wrestle with a dark secret from his past.
For writer/director John Lee Hancock to have to wait over 30 years for his script to hit the big screen must have been the biggest payoff for him. The question that remains is if the level of satisfaction is the same for most viewing audiences? When you include three Academy Award-winning actors serving the plot (Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto) of course such material will gain attention, having a wide appeal. Though it may be a little too late for the film to have its original impact.
Set in the early 90’s, Deke (Washington) is at the end of his career only counting the days until his retirement, when he has to team up with a young Detective Baxter (Malek) to chase down a suspected serial killer (Leto). I’m sure this sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because we’ve seen it before. However, Hancock is able to provide vivid details for each character, giving us something new and refreshing.
Deke is noticeably short with his words and has an interesting way of telling his peers to mind their own business. He has a dark past, and something is eating away at him. He is very polite and thorough and makes note on more than one occasion that the little things are important. Baxter (Malek) is straddling the fence of narcissism and humbleness. He knows his place in life (which is a good one), but you could tell he’s one slip away from snapping if he’s provoked the wrong way. Albert (Leto) is as creepy as he needs to be. You know something is up with this man the second you lay eyes on him, and that’s a job well done from the performance. To say he was eerie is an understatement. He’s the type of man that will haunt your dreams from here until eternity. So when you have all this brilliance on screen it is very easy to get enthralled.
Director Hancock knows how to direct a film as well. It would be a shame if he didn’t handle this talent in the best way possible. I loved how he kept providing moments of tension during either everyday scenarios or moments when you’re fully aware that chaos is around the corner, only to flip it on you and make you realize that in some cases it was just a tease. It’s a great way to keep your attention as it did mine.
The Little Things is an enjoyable film, and you’re along for the ride trying to piece together the puzzle on who the serial killer is. However, the ending of the film leaves you empty. There was no payoff from what someone may have been led to believe from the marketing. I felt lied to and misled, and it’s disappointing. I also don’t know what the point of the story was in the end when it was all said and done. If you are a fan of the talent on screen at the very least you may walk away satisfied, but after a few hours, you may realize that you’ve wasted two hours seeing that nothing happened, and there may or may not be a victor in the end.