Denzel, Rami Malek and Jared Leto… Seems like a home run right? Perhaps but any great actors and performances can be dragged down by the pacing and editing. And unfortunately that is exactly the case here. The Little Things is now streaming on HBO Max and after reading up on it and watching all the trailers, I was definitely hyped to sit down and enjoy a nice slow burning psychological thriller. But the burn may have been too slow for this one. The base plot, characters and acting were the saving grace of this film because the writing had its fair share of flaws. The writing wasn’t bad but it definitely was not great and could have been saved further with good editing but that unfortunately was also not great. Let’s dive in.
Films like this depend on pacing and it can be the deciding factor in making an impactful psychological thriller or serial killer film. Se7en has been the standard since its release in 95′ as David Fincher created a true masterpiece of a film and a few other come to mind for me. Mind Hunter is one of them. This Netflix show had its fair share of love and hype but it did not garner the attention and praise that it truly deserves. I believe it will one day but it has to be my favorite serial killer style thriller of all time. It is simply just one of my favorite shows of all time. If you are not into true crime or any psychologically challenging style of art, then disregard everything I am saying and get back to watching MTV and spare me your thoughts. Nothing at all wrong with Reality TV as it clearly serves a purpose as mindless entertainment… just assuming that is your bread and butter.
The Little Things begins its disappointment with the title… The Little Things title has the feel of a Nicole Kidman rom com. Not a slow burning serial killer vibe that you get with Se7en or Mind Hunter. I understand the message behind the title as you will certainly find out if you watch but for some reason it just feels like a swing and a miss at making an impactful title to draw people in. The next thing that disappointed me was clearly the pacing and the editing. The film runs 2 hours and 7 minutes and in order for films to hold up is if you create characters and story arches that people truly feel for and want to learn more about. Not that the characters in this film were bad, they were actually quite good due to the acting but the payoffs were weak and you felt short changed at the end due to the jumbled morals and messages of the story in general. This hurts me to say because this style of film is MY bread and butter and it sucks when all that man power and talent fall short of expectations.
Rami’s charcter, Jim Baxter was interesting and that partly has to do with Rami’s performance. His face and characteristics are so fucking fascinating and draw you in no matter what he is saying or doing. His story arch was pretty well written until the final act where he acted out of character in my personal opinion and became kind of an idiot… Which is unfortunate. He was clearly portrayed as the young hot shot who became fascinated with Denzel’s character (Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon) who held his job before him. Baxter seemed to be a complicated and straight shooting wiz who had a lot on his plate with the killings that were happening under his watch and felt the need for this first time to ask for help before the feds got involved. Baxter and Deacon begin to uncover that they may be chasing the same killer that Deacon was looking for 5 years ago before he got caught up in a mess that will also untangle later in the film. Jared Leto (Albert Sparma) also ended up being a great serial killer. I assume the opinions on his performance will vary but I personally thought he was one of the true bright spots of the film. Ironic right? His face is also very distinct and can easily get you to believe that he has done some sketchy shit. He even spoke and walked in a way that put chills down your spine. It is not necessarily a “who done it” style of a crime story, rather a he most likely did it but is also extremely fascinating and I want to see where his story goes type of story… Which is awesome but was eventually overshadowed by the pacing and writing.
Let me get to the point here. Deacon and Baxter end up having a very confusing and contradictory story arch that cause me to question what the hell kind of story John Lee Hancock was trying to tell. At a base level, it is a classic murder mystery story with two cops who butt heads at times but ultimately relate and come together in the end. Hancock’s intentions in the writing were pure and I am still grateful that this film was made in general but damn. So it turns out Deacon was investigating a triple murder in the woods about 5 years back and ended up shooting and killing a girl that startled him making him think it was the killer. His close friends in the business helped cover it up and that is where his demons continue to haunt him through the next 5 years. Although by the end of the film, we don’t see the humanity in Deacon, rather the robotic machine like behavior that makes you question if we should like this dude or not. So this comes full circle when Leto’s character (Albert Sparma) and Baxter drive out to deserted land because Sparma promises to show Baxter where he buried a girl that went missing earlier in the film. He makes Baxter dig and dig until he talks enough shit for Baxter to turn and smack Sparma in the face with the shovel, killing him… Ok… Just like that, the most fascinating character in the story was dead and we didn’t get any type of closure or insight into what truly motivated him or what goes through his head. We needed more in depth dialogue between these characters and now that he is dead, I felt short changed. Now what? Baxter and Deacon have both killed people they weren’t supposed to and now they are both haunted and dead inside for the rest of their lives? Cool story. The opening acts followed this psychological theme that drew my attention but was now shallow and bare because of the way he wrote this ending.
I guess it is safe to say that the ending was the true downfall of the film. There were no payoffs or twists and turns that had me on the edge of my seat after 2 hours even though I was truly enjoying the opening two acts. I was left feeling like there was still more story to be told and had me questioning what the overall intention of writing this film was. It made me feel like after all that time, we were left with more questions and confusion. Which can be a good thing if it is a true mystery thriller but this film was character driven from the start and then did not end that way. It ended shallow and confusing. I was left wondering who I was supposed to actually like or relate with and who I was supposed to disagree with or hate. John Lee Hancock definitely tried to make it an impactful and emotional ending but it fell flat. And that sucks. I would like to think if he had a different editor and voices in his ear, this could have been a classic psychological thriller that held its own. BUT with that being said, I was entertained and enjoyed a lot of things about The Little Things. I enjoyed the scoring, the atmosphere, the acting and the cinematography quite a bit. There were just one too many flaws that distracted me from truly enjoying the film as much as I had hoped.
I will give The Little Things a 2 out of 5. That is a strong 2 however because it is worth the watch if you enjoy true crime or like the actors involved. Check it out on HBO Max and let me know if you agree, disagree or think it was complete shit. Either way, thanks for reading and be nice to each other.