Writer/director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) adds to his varied resume by providing audiences with the psychological thriller, The Little Things. Hancock’s well-penned crime drama is supported by solid performances, and while sometimes predictable, does well on a few interesting and original notes.
Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) is a burnt-out sheriff’s deputy with an eye for the smallest details when investigating crimes. While gathering evidence for a case in his own jurisdiction, he is drawn into Detective Jim Baxter’s (Rami Malek) investigation of an L.A. County serial killer. Together, the two work to solve the case so Baxter can cement his future and Deke can escape his past. But as the investigation proceeds, Deke discovers that some things from his past are never dead and buried.
There is a lot of attention to detail in Hancock’s script. Through his careful direction, he ensures they remain in the story. As much as the detectives are looking for clues, the audience can look for connections themselves – both to the story and to the mystery surrounding Deke’s past. There are a few little moments that do not seem quite right for the characters, but they stand out because they are out of place in a script so structured around the details.
Washington does a wonderful job conveying the haunted ex-detective, carrying the film until Deke and Baxter zero in on their main suspect, Albert Sparma (Jared Leto). At this point, there is a battle of wills, both among the three characters and the actors portraying them. In this, we see a rare instance where, through no fault of his own, Malek is overshadowed by the other players. Leto’s creepy portrayal ends up winning the skirmish.
The eerie music in the background wonderfully sets the film’s mood, as does the landscape – both urban and rural. Wherever Deke may be at any given moment looks exactly as one would suspect, and the people he encounters in these places match the environment perfectly. The cinematography is the real star of the background. There are many tiny, easily overlooked details framed perfectly so that the observant can notice them; missing them does not matter in the long run, however.
The Little Things is a solid crime drama with a bit of originality. Viewers who want complete closure to their stories might find the film lacking, but veteran enthusiasts of psychological thrillers like Se7en and Primal Fear are sure to be pleased by the things, both little and big, that this film has to offer.