The Little Things is crime thriller written and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Founder) and stars Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto, three Academy Award winners. It follows two detectives investigating a string of murders, on the hunt for a serial killer.
The film has been receiving a lot of criticism of late due to it’s similarities to Se7en, but to be fair, the script for this was first written by Hancock and pitched to Spielberg back in 1993, two years before Se7en came out. Spielberg turned it down for being too dark, then made Schindler’s List, so I think he just didn’t like it. The issue with this film now is that it really feels like the script hasn’t been touched since 1993. The film is set in the 90’s for no clear reason other than that’s when it was written. The setting doesn’t draw you in and quite frankly, this could’ve been set in the present day and very little would’ve needed to be changed about the script.
The writing is probably the worst part about this. It’s not bad. In fact, there are some really clever ideas throughout. But, without going too far into it, nearly everything feels unearned. There is no buildup on certain things and it feels like about 30 minutes of character building or story buildup was just cut. I did dig what they were going for with the ambiguity towards the end, but due to the lack of any real character development (minus Denzel’s character), it feels pretty unsatisfactory. There is also the parallel between Rami Malek’s character and Denzel’s, an interesting idea, “Don’t go down the road I went down” type stuff. But it’s delivered with the subtlety of a punch to the nose, which obviously ruins the idea.
Speaking of Rami Malek, I don’t know what he was going for here. His performance is all over the place. He starts off as an eccentric, egotistical jerk. Then he just almost instantly warms to Denzel’s character and becomes way more reserved. Jared Leto’s performance is anything but reserved. I think he only knows how to do “weird and creepy” with his performances now, which is fitting because he can just draw off his real life experiences of being a weird creep. In his defense, Leto is actually mostly decent in this. I don’t agree with the fact he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the Golden Globes, but those awards are a farce anyway, so I don’t care too much.
To literally nobody’s surprise, Denzel Washington is the standout in this. I feel like he was mostly coasting in this, yet he still blows everyone else away. He plays his role in a very grounded way, but that just makes it more believable, even in the scene where he is haunted by the ghosts of past victims (not a spoiler).
The movie is supported by a solid score by Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption, 1917) and some breathtaking cinematography from frequent John Lee Hancock collaborator John Schwartzman. It’s just a shame the writing seemingly didn’t get a touch-up as, despite this being a 2021 release, it is already feeling a bit dated.