The Little Things

The Little Things ★★½

Detective dramas seem to have migrated from theaters to television over the years. I can't remember the last time we had one that stood out. Prisoners? Maybe. That was 2013 and if I do the math right now I will feel very old. Long story short, I was excited to watch Denzel Washington and Rami Malek play detectives hunting down a serial killer.

Director and screenwriter John Lee Hancock polishes off a script he wrote 28 years ago for Steven Spielberg, who left the project due to its dark subject matter. And that's surprising because the movie itself isn't really that dark or disturbing. I mean, it's no comedy to be sure, but there's nothing we haven't seen before on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. There's a certain type of breeziness to the proceedings, which is a bit tonally off-putting. It's hard to put a finger on it, but if you're expecting something disturbing and unsettling, you'll be disappointed.

The story is about as '90s as it gets. Washington plays a sheriff tortured by his past while Malek gets to play the hot-shot detective who is about to hit a breaking point. Washington is fine as always, but this ranks low among the many great performances he's given over the years. Malek feels a bit miscast. He's not bad, but he doesn't quite nail the frustration and anger that his character conveys. Look no further than a scene where he loses his cool against a medical examiner. It's almost laughable. Maybe No Time to Die will make up for it, but he hasn't nailed the transition from television to movies yet. And yes, I know he won the Oscar for Bohemian Rhapsody. But if you want to Malek at his peak, check out Mr. Robot.

Jared Leto, on the other hand, is downright awful. It's an obnoxious piece of work that feels so out of place with the tone, the setting, etc. It's just all wrong. It takes a while for him to show up, and when he finally does, you'll be ready to hit the fast-forward button.

With films like Saving Mr. Banks and The Founder, Hancock is more than capable of making good films. Maybe this was out of his wheelhouse. Perhaps if this was made in the '90s, we'd view it differently. But after seeing directors like David Fincher (Seven) and Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) tackle this genre, it's hard not to bemoan what it could've been.

I realize I sound more harsh than my rating suggests. It's really not a bad movie, even though Leto threatens to tank it. There are some genuinely intense scenes that'll make you hold your breath and the ending is actually quite good. It rides a fine line between closure and ambiguity. It certainly helps it standout from the crowd, but it also makes you wish the film were stronger to support its ending. Worth watching? Sure, if you have HBOMax. Sadly it just doesn't live up to the talent both in front of and behind the camera.