The Little Things movie poster
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The Little Things
The Little Things movie poster

The Little Things Movie Review

In the opening scene of the bleak serial killer thriller The Little Things, a young woman is stalked and terrorized by a faceless hunter in riveting fashion. It’s a strong start for writer/director John Lee Hancock’s turn to the dark side. It’s also, unfortunately, the movie’s best moment.

From those first few minutes, The Little Things is a two-hour-plus exercise in futility, a slow-motion display of deteriorating returns with an unfulfilling ending and potential left dripping from its bloated carcass.

Though Hancock is best known for lighthearted fare such as The Blind Side, The Rookie, and Saving Mr. Banks, it’s clear that with The Little Things he’s attempting to recreate the eerie, gritty, grimy atmosphere from David Fincher’s Seven.

The problem is twofold: Hancock is no Fincher, and The Little Things is a poor imitation of the acclaimed serial killer spectacle.

Not for lack of trying, though. Denzel Washington delivers the kind of performance you’d expect from Denzel Washington, even if his character is about as routine and uninteresting as they come. Washington acts as if he knows the writing has problems; he does his best to inject little nuances and mannerisms to elevate the material, but what you end up with is a powerhouse actor visibly banging against the confines of his character.

Fellow Oscar winner Rami Malek, meanwhile, takes a more defeatist approach. Malek arguably gives the worst performance of his career, a frustratingly dull and straightlaced line when the movie is practically begging him to do anything but. Hancock’s screenplay does him no favors, but if The Little Things is ultimately meant to pivot around Malek’s ethical and moral journey, it’s a miss on all fronts.

Jared Leto is in the movie, too, essentially playing Kevin Spacey’s role in Seven minus the charisma. Leto is fine, but again Hancock straddles him with a role that offers plenty of promise--who wouldn’t want to play the creepy, psychotic, and methodical [alleged] killer in a movie starring Denzel Washington?--but never goes anywhere.

And that’s the underlying issue with The Little Things; it hints at greater things to come, but never gets there. The movie’s opening scene is great, and for a while, as the detectives plunge into L.A.’’s underbelly to get closer to the truth, it maintains a level of suspense. But as the story progresses, the little, sordid things begin to add up… and your attention will inevitably wander. At over two hours long, the movie’s second half is a surprisingly boring affair. And if you think the ending will pack enough of a punch to make the wait worth it, think again; Hancock’s conclusion is disappointing and unearned, an arguably bold misfire that drops the movie from merely mediocre to something much worse.

The Little Things starts promising but quickly loses sight of what makes serial killer movies effectively; even Denzel Washington can’t save this stinking corpse.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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