In the opening scene of The Little Giants – 40%, a young driver is chased, on a two-way road, by another vehicle that is dangerously close to her rear bumper, almost touching her with its bumper. The mysterious car then passes her and accelerates past her by several meters before braking hard. The woman also decides to speed up and sneaks off in the hope of seeking help at a gas station later on, where she barely manages to flee from the mysterious character that was following her. Likewise, all the suspense or ambiguity that Little Secrets could have benefited from – 13% escapes from history because of the poor performances of its cast, added to a script with an unclear plot.
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Little secrets, directed by John Lee Hancock, follows the efforts of Detective Baxter (Rami Malek) and Sheriff Deacon (Denzel Washington) to solve a series of murders whose perpetrator has been impossible to identify and in which the evidence is almost nonexistent. Their work leads them to suspect Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), a mysterious man who seems to enjoy the frustration of the officers to find the culprit, but who cannot be linked to any case due to lack of evidence. It is then that the objective of finding the criminal becomes an obsession.
If the short opening sequence seems tense, that’s because it is. That little scene is perhaps the most exciting in the film and the only one that provides the suspense necessary to hold the audience’s attention. It is not an exaggeration to say that, in its intention to subvert some clichés of the genre, as other productions have done before this film, Hancock’s film ends up becoming predictable.
Perhaps because of the little twist in the premise, some of you are already thinking about two classics like Seven, the Seven Deadly Sins – 79% by David Fincher, and Memories of Murder – 89% of Bong Joon-ho, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The concern of this story is very similar to that of both films in terms of exploring the methods serial killers use to provoke and lead to anguish and frustration in detectives. Little secrets – 13% is the proof that the direction is as important as the plot, and here both fail, and it is that it does not even close to the effect of those two films.
For example, it takes almost half its duration to present Sparma as the possible perpetrator of the murders. In that first half of the film, the film concentrates on establishing the relationship between the two characters through scenes that do not present enough information to the viewer to reconstruct, alongside the protagonists, the different crimes, as is the case with the detectives from the Bong Joon-ho film. Nor does he create a disturbing atmosphere through photography or the explicitness of crime as David Fincher’s film does.
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This lack of information and attention to small details is what makes Little secrets, a film incapable of generating emotion or empathy for the public to choose which side to be on, the murderer or the detectives. That is, as we are not presented with enough information about the murders, or about the main suspect, it is not possible for the viewer to form his own opinion, or to question it, about whether or not the suspect is the culprit and, therefore therefore, to understand or condemn the extremes to which both detectives go.
What could have compensated the damage of this poor construction of the plot would have been the performances. Washington does the best job on this film, presenting himself as a mentor to Baxter. We could say that Malek is the one who offers the worst performance with a character without nuances. Leto also takes refuge in a blurred performance when the ambiguity of this character was the key to generating the dramatic tension throughout the film. Think of the opposite of, for example, the brutal violence of Hugh Jackman, the suffocating demand demanded of Jake Gyllenhaal, or the indecipherable of Paul Dano and David Dastmalchian in Intrigue – 81% by Denis Villeneuve, a film that is possibly the best thriller of the past decade.
The moral ambiguity that Little secrets – 13% want to explore is also present in Memories of Murder and particularly at the end of Seven. The outcome of this film is very similar to the production of Fincher. They are even set in similar places and put their protagonist in a very similar conflict. Hancock’s title has nothing to do with what is seen on the tape, in any case, that must have been the end point of his plot. There is an attempt to divert the viewer’s attention from the similarities to Seven, but it feels forced. It is as if a subplot is set as the resolution of the main story.
With forgettable characters, mediocre performances and a narrative construction devoid of tension, atmosphere or ambiguity, Little Secrets – 13% ends up being an attempt at a thriller and is more like the antithesis of the basic elements that every film of this genre must have to be captivating.
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