“The Little Things,” 2021, directed by John Lee Hancock — 1.5/5 stars
One of the worst things a movie can be is boring. Even the worst films can at least be made entertaining with flashy imagery and an over-the-top plot. “The Little Things” is no such film. Woefully boring, “The Little Things” cannot save itself from poor editing, phoned-in performances and mediocre writing.
The film first presents itself as a straightforward crime thriller, following Joe Deacon — played by Denzel Washington — a county sheriff in Southern California who is sent to retrieve evidence in Los Angeles. There, he joins detective Jim Baxter — played by Rami Malek — in a hunt for a serial killer terrorizing the city. Little groundwork is laid for these characters, with most of their character development being shallow and derivative, and much of their investigative work being done offscreen. This makes the so-called suspense that the film attempts to build feel forced or, sometimes, non-existent. What appears to be attempts at stressful moments are usually boring, marked by repetitive ambient piano melodies that stand out in contrast to mundane, low-stakes scenes.
Deacon and Baxter soon become fixated on Albert Sparma — played by Jared Leto — a local crime-obsessed oddball who thrives off attention from the police. As the film goes on, it becomes clear that Sparma is likely not the killer and is simply toying with Deacon and Baxter for the thrill. While this is obvious to the audience, the two protagonists cannot let up on their fixation, and the majority of the film’s remaining runtime is dedicated to monitoring Sparma’s every move. This is terribly boring. One could argue that this film is meant to be more of a psychological character study of Deacon and Baxter, but the film fails at that too. The vast majority of what the characters discuss in their dialogue-heavy scenes is only directly relevant to the murders, and what little we do learn about them is superficial and brief. Ultimately, the film does not allow the audience to get invested in either the plot or its characters, and the story as a whole completely falls flat.
What might have saved the dull script is good performances from the movie’s all-star cast, which is stunningly not present. Leto delivers a decently complex rendering of his character but is outmatched in screen time by the other two leads who seem to only be there for their paycheck. Washington especially seems bored himself, which does not help with the audience’s diminishing attention span. Malek, on the other hand, does not seem bored but, rather, seems to lack any consistency in his character and has a few laughably terrible line deliveries.
These substandard performances are further exacerbated by the film’s distractingly awful editing, which erratically cuts between characters in dialogue sequences. Rapid changes in perspective are disorienting, and the editing never seems to match the attempted tone. The one redeeming aspect of the experience is its competent and sometimes interesting cinematography, but even this is brought down by excessive color correction and, again, a lack of tonal uniformity.
Overall, this movie is not worth anyone’s time. Forgettable and tediously boring, “The Little Things” has been done before and better.
“The Little Things,” can be watched now on HBO Max.