“The Little Things” is a little disappointing

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Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

As theaters struggle to stay alive and major studios grow more desperate for some revenue, Warner Bros. and HBO have teamed up to try something revolutionary. 

With this new system, the day that Warner Bros. films drop in theaters will be the day that those same films will be released for streaming on HBO Max. 

Though this strikes a blow to movie theaters across the country, this is a compromise that has finally led to new, big-studio content coming to a screen (big or small) near you. 

One of the first films to receive this simultaneous theater/streaming release is director, writer and producer John Lee Hancock’s “The Little Things,” starring Jared Leto, Denzel Washington and Rami Malek. 

In “The Little Things,” a cunning and perverted serial killer is on the loose in Los Angeles in the early 1990s. With young women disappearing left and right, it is up to the young, hotshot detective Jim Baxter (Malek), who hasn’t met a case that he can’t crack, to catch the criminal. 

This case, however, is different. Baxter struggles to make any progress in finding the killer. Baxter discovers an unlikely partner in former LAPD detective Joe “Deke” Deacon (Washington). Deacon has come back to LA from the podunk town he abruptly moved to years ago. 

Deacon, who was one of the best detectives in the LAPD before he moved to the middle of nowhere, comes back to LA on unrelated business but takes interest in Baxter’s case. Deacon seems to be haunted by a similar case that he was unable to solve back in his day. The hope of redeeming himself for  past failure spurs Deacon on to work with Baxter in bringing this devious serial killer to justice. 

The killer is always one or two steps ahead of Deacon and Baxter. In order to put an end to these murders, Baxter and Deacon will need to combine Deacon’s old-school style and grit with Baxter’s youthful ambition and determination. 

In the end, Deacon and Baxter learn that the little things are those that tend to make the difference when it comes to catching a criminal…or when it comes to living with yourself after doing the unthinkable in order to put an end to a sadistic madman’s rampage. 

“The Little Things” is a film that fails to be different enough from its genre to merit distinction, but is so well-acted and well-shot that it fails to merit disdain. 

This film is essentially a buddy-cop movie where the young hotshot detective learns a thing or two from an old-school cop who plays by his own rules in order to get the job done. Serious in tone and vaguely reminiscent of the style of far superior films like “Seven,” everything in “The Little Things” has already been done, and been done better, by other films. 

While “The Little Things” fails to rise above the bevy of films that are nearly identical in story beats and tone, aspects of the film are so well-handled that they redeem the film’s mediocre story and characters to an extent. 

There is almost nothing that can be criticized, and much that can be praised in this film’s marvelous cinematography and intentional color palette. Cinematographer John Schwartzman and the entire production design team do a fantastic job to create a film that looks and feels sophisticated. Not a shot in this film is wasted or simply filler. This cannot be said for other films in the same genre, which certainly elevates “The Little Things.” 

Composer Thomas Newman’s understated and moving score works to complement the artistic prowess on screen. 

Finally, Malek, Washington and Leto are all first-rate actors who play extraordinarily well together. Each of these actors tends to over-chew the scenery from time to time, but the performances from these three are the best aspect of this film. 

For Denzel Washington fans out there, “The Little Things” will surely show a pleasing return to form. 

The faults of this film primarily lie in its rather generic plot and an overly ambitious attempt at intricacy that falls flat. Whether or not this is a detriment to the experience will depend on your familiarity with the genre. 

For those who have been watching crime-thrillers and buddy-cop films from the last fifty years, “The Little Things” will feel like a competent retread of extremely familiar ground. On the other hand, those who aren’t too familiar with the genre will likely walk out of the theater (or their living room) feeling profoundly affected. 

Though many will rightly point out that “The Little Things” fails to bring almost anything new, Hancock’s film undoubtedly has solid performances, intentional cinematography, and a tried-and-true plot that continues to intrigue audiences. 

For a society starved of new films, viewing “The Little Things” is a decent way to kill a couple of hours, but not much more than that.

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