‘The Little Things’: A disappointing thriller

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A few months ago, Warner Brothers controversially announced a plan to release all of its 2021 movies simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters. In their press release, they emphasized this move was only for 2021 due to the coronavirus’ effect on theaters and would be reevaluated at the end of the year. That being said, many industry experts predicted this release model was to stay for a long while for the company. 

Kicking off Warner Bros.’ releases of 2021 is “The Little Things,” a mystery thriller from writer and director John Lee Hancock. The film boasts a leading cast of three Academy Award winners: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto. The film tells the story of two detectives looking for the person behind a slew of murders in the Los Angeles area.  

Last week in “Fantastic Films and Where to Find Them,” I discussed the importance of rising stakes in a thriller. A good thriller must have several narrative turns and a constantly growing tension that peaks at the end of the film. It also must be a cohesive picture, in which everything is important to the finished narrative. A good example of a film that exemplifies this structure is the 2013 film “Prisoners.” 

“The Little Things” unfortunately fails in accomplishing all of this. 

To start, the film lacks proper tension buildup. The first hour of the film is very slow moving, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t do anything other than set up the plot. With only a two hour runtime, this is a problem. An hour into the movie, we should be fairly deep into the second act. However, if the third act pays off brilliantly, that wouldn’t be an issue. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. The second hour of the film is very predictable, with only one major turn of events that viewers will be able to see coming. The story doesn’t progress to anything particularly compelling, moving toward a fairly simple thematic storyline that has been prevalent in many films involving police. The film falls into many cliches that aren’t really built upon or enhanced with its storyline. 

Some of the characters’ decisions in the second and third act are confusing and seemingly out of character, making the film feel more scripted than naturally flowing. The editing is also quite odd in many parts, often lessening the impact of some of the major moments of the film. 

On a positive note, the acting is quite good. Denzel Washington is really great in this movie, doing a fantastic job at portraying his character. Jared Leto, who is a controversial person on and off the set, is also pretty good in this movie. Rami Malek is decent, but isn’t given as much to work with as the other two actors. 

The cinematography is also pretty solid, showcasing a dirty and grimy side of ‘90s Los Angeles with some fantastic camerawork. 

In summary, this film fails simply because it doesn’t build tension or tell an effective, cohesive or particularly compelling story in the end. A good thriller must do those things and unfortunately, this one does not. Thus, this film fails to earn a recommendation. 

Final Score: 3.10/5 

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures on YouTube.

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