In the new film by director and screenwriter John Lee Hancock, Denzel Washington and Rami Malek go in search of a serial killer. Your suspect: Jared Leto. What THE LITTLE THINGS What else has to offer outside of this star cast is what we reveal in our review.
OT: The Little Things (USA 2021)
Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) was supposed to be checking out some evidence on a routine mission in Los Angeles. But instead he becomes involved in the search for a serial killer who is terrorizing the city. The LA Sheriff’s Department’s lead investigator, Sergeant Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), is impressed by Deke’s police instincts and – unofficially – enlists his help. But as the two cops track down the killer, more and more secrets from Deke’s past come to light – secrets so disturbing that they could threaten more than just Baxter’s case.
Long before the first trailer for “The Little Things” was even released, many media outlets were comparing the new film by writer and director John Lee Hancock (“Saving Mr. Banks”) with David Fincher’s thriller masterpiece “Seven”. This comparison is obvious: in both films, a long-established Hollywood star and an up-and-coming no-longer-newcomer investigate a serial murder case as a duo. The suspect is also portrayed by a big name, only Kevin Spacey aka John Doe was once kept completely out of the PR machine while with Jared Leto (“Blade Runner 2049”) is actively promoted. Denzel Washington now plays in the positions that Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt once occupied in “Seven”. (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.) and Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) – but that’s where the similarities between these two films end. Instead, “The Little Things” is more reminiscent of a completely different film from David Fincher’s work: “Zodiac: The Killer’s Trail”. And that gives a first taste of what guts John Lee Hancock shows by still directing his film, the script of which he completed in 1993, in the way that it was out of time in 2007 and is today is more than ever. Because “The Little Things” is – in the best sense of the word – completely unsatisfactory and has hardly anything in common with the high-tension thrillers of today’s decade, except perhaps the neat production.
The suspect Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) is summoned for questioning by Detective Baxter (Rami Malek).
“The Little Things” begins with an oppressive scene that lives up to the title of the film: a woman is chased by another car on the highway at night, rushes in a panic to a house where she is not allowed to enter, and then flees back onto the street, where she manages to get a truck driver to stop at the last moment before she sinks to the ground exhausted. Although the film title “The Little Things” is actually intended to refer to Detective Deacon’s “Monk”-like investigative skills (of which you unfortunately see very little over the course of the 127 minutes of the film), the emphasis on the “little things” is particularly evident in such things Moments all its charm: In “The Little Things” it never becomes explicit. Cameraman John Schwartzman even captures the bloody crime scenes where the cops inspect the women’s bodies (“Dracula Untold”) with such casualness that the suspense does not arise from the visual drasticity, as in so many other thrillers, but rather from everything that goes along with such an act. In this case, what is frightening is less the result than what came before, which is so frightening because little things shift in perception; For example, because a car follows you for a few minutes too long than usual. Later in the film, we see a young jogger walking home alone in the dark. The scene already seems to be over, the camera pans out when suddenly a car turns into the same street that the jogger had just turned into. An actually completely everyday image that, colored by the knowledge of a killer who hunts young women in the area, can make your heart race.
“It’s never explicit in The Little Things. Cameraman John Schwartzman even captures the bloody crime scenes where the cops inspect the women’s corpses with such casualness that the suspense does not arise from the visual drasticity, as in so many other thrillers, but rather from everything that goes with it Act goes hand in hand.”
With these two scenes, the actively suspenseful elements are already exhausted. Otherwise, “The Little Things” is more of a quiet thriller that portrays police work as a soul-crunching, anything but satisfying endeavor. For John Lee Hancock, it is far less about presenting his audience with a perpetrator at the end – the trail of blood left by the serial killer is ultimately just the plot driver that sets everything in motion – and more about showing the effects of such an investigation on the lives of the cops and, more importantly, to reflect the internal processes within the police force. This leads to an extremely moderate pace and a film that consists primarily of dialogue and a theoretical approach to the murder cases rather than actively presented police spectacle. There isn’t even any shooting, there are no chase scenes or similarly lurid thriller clichés. This makes it all the easier for moments such as the interrogation of the suspect Sparma to emerge as a peak of tension, even though this is actually “just” a dialogue.
What kind of plan does Deacon (Denzel Washington) have?
In the case of “The Little Things,” the casting of Jared Leto wasn’t just a success because the mime, who worked his heart out for his role, suits the personification of a madman. Even on a meta level, it’s a smart move to cast Leto, known for his unpredictable choice of roles, as a character who is difficult to figure out until the end. Whenever his Albert Sparma interacts with the cops, the balance of power is unclear and who is superior to whom and who is inferior to whom is difficult to grasp. The commitment of Denzel Washington, who refines the film with his emphatically stoic performance of a cop who is both driven and resigned, and of an equally convincing Rami Malek as an idealistic youngster aims at opposites that do not reinvent the genre wheel. The constant inclusion of Deacon’s world, his personal demons and fears, is more in keeping with the cliché than “The Little Things” would have needed. After all, John Lee Hancock doesn’t force the friction resulting from such contrasting characters so much as the complementary element: together, the four eyes of Joe “Deke” Deacon and Sergeant Jim Baxter simply perceive significantly more than each of them alone – even without the two of them would have to constantly worry about this.
“John Lee Hancock is far less concerned with presenting his audience with a perpetrator at the end – the trail of blood left by the serial killer is ultimately just the plot driver that sets everything in motion – but rather with showing the impact of such an investigation on the lives of the cops and, even more important, to reflect the internal processes within the police force.”
Perhaps the biggest concession to the viewing habits of a 2021 audience is the staging. This means less the emphatically reduced tempo and more the audiovisual presentation. “The Little Things” just looks damn good and, unlike “Seven” quoted at the beginning, doesn’t rely on the image of an already depraved world as a breeding ground for evil being all the more believable. Instead, the one presented here is the one in which we all live. In “The Little Things” the investigation takes place in bright sunshine rather than in gloomy grey-on-grey and rain. Under these circumstances, the serial killer’s brutal actions are even more shocking.
Conclusion: “The Little Things” is an old-fashioned serial killer thriller that almost completely avoids the showmanship typical of the genre and instead focuses on both the psychological consequences of such a police investigation and its grueling processes. Not a film for adrenaline junkies, but one for all those who like their crime films a little drier.
“The Little Things” can be seen in USA cinemas from July 8, 2021.