Movie Review: The Little Things
Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) is burnt out. While the sun scorches the ground so frequently on the dried hills and shrivelled grass, it also ploughs deep into this leading character. The Little Things wishes to make this clear from the very beginning. His chirpy smile and positive attitude are a façade, used to combat the life he leads. Clinging to the hope of living the idyllic lifestyle he once had the passion to pursue, he now lives a solitary, banal lifestyle. It is no surprise that the latest film from John Lee Hancock uses this as a catalyst for larger opportunities, a mundane man thrust into the path of greatness. His second shot at the big leagues sees him team up with Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), to crack a difficult case.
Evidently, the case falls to the wayside. The Little Things is as much a crime thriller as it is a deep and touching character study. Leaning into these genre clichés all too often, we as an audience must take solace in the unique stylings of the two performers at the heart of it all. Hancock does not leave an imprint that would suggest any major change or improvement to his directing style, looking to riff off of the harsh gore of Se7en and the redemptive angles found within The Pledge. A decent mixture, and one with more than a handful of successful results, it is an unfortunate shame that The Little Things doesn’t free itself of the Mindhunter aesthetics that dominate the first half of the film. A cool, smouldering Washington matches up nicely with the cold-cut professionalism Malek brings to the table.
His first major role post-Bohemian Rhapsody, Malek makes the most of his time in the spotlight. A great level of range is offered here, with his slick, suited role matching well with the salt-of-the-earth presentation Washington provides. Exceptional chemistry soon makes itself known, early interrogation scenes and general detective work make that much evident from the very beginning. Soon a tense series of thriller-oriented stealth is presented, the second and third act falter slightly but manage to keep much of the energy intact. Jard Leto’s inclusion is a solid draw, his role as Albert Sparma conveyed with just enough unphased eeriness that it makes for a welcome break from the cop chemistry of the two leading characters.
When the police are involved in fictional entertainment, they’re either deeply troubled by grief and addiction, or villainous and shady. The Little Things offers both, separating the two as distinct characters, rather than mangling them together. Venturing into the darker notions of detective work, two walking tropes carve out a comfortable narrative under the helm of Hancock. Strong performances soon follow, a leading cast that offer up roles great enough to cover the static, standard stylings of camerawork and cinematography. Moments of lighting or emotional comfort come and go as quickly as the dreams Deke holds onto, he clings to nothingness in the vain hope of escaping his troubled past. It’s the little things that keep him going, and Washington considers whether or not these flutters of happiness are worth the long haul.