The Little Things

“It’s the little things, Jimmy. It’s the little things that rip you apart. It’s the little things that get you caught.”

The Little Things is a 2021 crime thriller drama written and directed by John Lee Hancock. The plot follows two police officers (Denzel Washington and Rami Malek) who try to catch a serial killer in 1990s Los Angeles, when they find a strange man (Jared Leto) who becomes their top suspect.

It’s fair to say that up to and including the end of the second act of the movie, The Little Things seemed to be moving in a predictable direction. The above plot description basically describes the narrative direction up to that point. But glad to report that in the third act, the movie features an intriguing twist that turns the movie from mundane to inspired.

Before that, Hancock’s screenplay had given us much to ponder about our main character, Joe “Deke” Deacon (Washington), a paunchy middle-aged beat cop former detective with hidden skeletons in his past. A new murder in L.A. dredges up old psychological wounds for Deacon and he decides to assist detective Jimmy Baxter (Malek) on his own time.

Denzel Washington Jr and Rami Malek in The Little Things.

There is a dynamic odd couple vibe about Deacon and Malek that works well within the context of the movie. There is a shared affinity concerning their obsession to get into the mind of the serial killer and solve the mystery, which ultimately proves to be their collective undoing.

Malek does his job well as the naive, bug-eyed Baxter who perhaps is too invested in the investigation to see the forest for the trees and probably too much in awe of Deacon’s reputation to understand the latter’s purpose as a cautionary tale.

While it is arguable that Jared Leto’s role as murder suspect Albert Sparma is superficial, Leto manages sufficient creep factor to justify the action that unfolds in the climax of the movie. Suffice to say that one needs to be patient to get to the third act to reap the rewards that the movie has to offer. It’s worth the time and effort.

Sure, critics have savaged The Little Things for its similarities with David Fincher’s Seven but we believe that that is all misplaced. The Little Things is more nuanced than Seven and definitely more thought provoking. It places the spotlight on the trauma and psychological damage done to those who would hunt monsters, rather than the monsters themselves.

The classic Nietzsche quote is most certainly relevant here. “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Now showing in Singapore cinemas.

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