Former homicide detective Joe “Deke” Deacon as played by Denzel Washington is living the quiet life as a deputy sheriff in Bakersfield, Kern County. However, when he gets the call to collect some evidence from his old LA precinct, it seems that some habits die hard. Walking in on his replacement’s press briefing as given by Rami Malek as Detective Jim Baxter, it seems that Deke has more than a casual interest in the case. Will Jim take Deke’s advice? Or will he instead heed the advice that Deke is a danger, not only to himself but also everyone else?
The Little Things becomes a subversive delight, rather than giving in and pandering to your expectations…
Director John Lee Hancock’s The Little Things is an absorbing crime thriller which is never in hurry to show its hand. Building up slowly with the laid-back charmer that Denzel Washington is, you know that Joe “Deke” Deacon is holding all the aces because he’s been here before. Warmly greeted as an unwelcome pariah, he clearly has a history when it comes to solving grisly murder cases but for some reason, nobody wants his help. So, add this on top of Rami Malek’s detective trying to find a killer and he’s doubly intrigued about Deke and why nobody wants to play with him. This, in turn, beautifully cues up Denzel Washington to do what he does best – which is chide other characters. Even from his breakthrough roles in 1989’s Glory and the confirmatory Malcolm X, all the way through to his more recent Equalizer movies, nobody delivers exposition wrapped up in a caution, the way that Denzel does. And this makes for a fantastic chemical reaction in pairing him off against Rami Malek’s starchy take on Jim Baxter, an ambitious career detective.
So whilst, the grimness of the crime scenes, with all their voluminous lighting and house lights that nobody inexplicably flicks on, it’s fair to say you’ll be getting those David Fincher Se7en vibes early on. However, in saying that, whilst it might start out feeling like an updating of Morgan Freeman’s pairing with Brad Pitt, The Little Things isn’t that movie.
With a fantastically minimalist score from Thomas Newman plucking away at the tension, it’s actually “the little things” that gnaw away on your suspicions. For a film that is ostensibly about a murderer broadening his killing spree, its focus isn’t so much on the killer and more on those charged with their pursuit. Beautifully observed throughout, cinematographer John Schwartzman’s camera lingers just where it needs to. So, even without him saying a word, you can see that Denzel Washington is thinking a different way to everyone else and this pays extra dividends when emaciated Jared Leto seems to fit the bill. All ticks and knowing glances, is his Albert Sparma the guy they’re looking for is too perfect to be credible?
In pitching itself as a movie with the twin mysteries of who the killer is and just who Joe Deacon really is, The Little Things is an engrossing 127 minutes that will keep you guessing up until the last piece falls into place. Again ending with a desert end scene that will have you jumping up and down again about even more Se7en meta-references, it seems that this is a crime drama is happy to stomp through pastures old with a path of its own. Similarly dangling that same thread that our heroes are not in control and are forced to follow Jared Leto’s lead, The Little Things becomes a subversive delight, rather than giving in and pandering to your expectations.
Check it now on HBO Max and doubtlessly other streaming platforms later