The script dates back to the 1990s: “The Little Things” is an intense film that is carried by two great leading actors.
When the deputy sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) is sent to Los Angeles from the Californian province on an official matter, his own past catches up with him. Five years ago, Deke was a highly respected investigator in the LAPD until the unsolved serial killer case pushed him to his professional and personal limits. A suspension, a divorce, a heart attack and three bypass operations were the consequences of his criminal investigation burnout. The former supervisor and some colleagues do not speak well of him. But the young successor Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) is hoping for competent help from the predecessor in a case that is very similar to the previous one.
It doesn’t take long before Deke sees the pictures of women again, whose murder he was unable to prevent at the time. The ghosts of the deceased speak to him, just as Deke speaks to the corpse, which is the youngest victim on the autopsy table. Similar to Deke at the time, his younger successor is also eager to find the culprit. The two accomplished investigators soon have Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) on a suspect who fits the perpetrator profile exactly. But there is no clear evidence and Sparma knows that too, who listens to the police radio in his apartment around the clock, has accumulated a profound knowledge of unsolved murder cases and is gleefully fooling the two cops.
John Lee Hancock’s “The Little Things” is a noir thriller that is less about the resolution of a series of murders and more about the nagging force of uncertainty against which both police officers fight to the point of desperation. Hancock originally wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg back in the mid-1990s – at a time when the serial killer genre achieved its greatest and darkest successes with Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) and David Fincher’s “Seven” (1995) celebrated.
And so “The Little Things” seems antiquated in an interesting way. Not only because the action in the 90s is set far away from cell phones and genetic fingerprints, but also because Hancock doesn’t even pretend to reinvent the genre with innovations.
“The Little Things” thrives on his calm, confident style and the fabulous Denzel Washington, who artfully makes the attacked soul of his character visible through ties. Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rapsody”), an ambitious careerist, whose radiant self-confidence gets deep cracks when he gets caught up in a case that does not want to reveal the truth, forms an extremely interesting, theatrical contrast.
The Little Things; USA 2020, directed by John Lee Hancock, with Denzel Washinton and Remi Malik, 128 min.