THE LITTLE THINGS (2021) Reviews and ending explained

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The Little Things is a 2021 American thriller in which the hunt for a serial killer in Los Angeles uncovers more than two cops bargained for.

Written and directed by John Lee Hancock, the Gran Via production stars Denzel Washington (The Bone Collector), Jared Leto (Morbius; Framed; American Psycho), Rami Malek (No Time to Die; Oldboy), Sofia Vassilieva and Natalie Morales (Santa Clarita Diet TV series).

Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) is sent to Los Angeles for what should have been a quick evidence-gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes embroiled in the search for a killer who is terrorizing the city. Leading the hunt, L.A. Sheriff Department Sergeant Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), impressed with Deke’s cop instincts, unofficially engages his help.

However, as they track the killer, Baxter is unaware that the investigation is dredging up echoes of Deke’s past, uncovering disturbing secrets that could threaten more than his case…

“It’s almost unthinkable that someone could take three Oscar-winning actors and create a collaboration this is unmemorable. The story is basically Se7en with a brief epilogue that tries to include a twist which feels unsurprising in the least and left me wondering why a studio greenlit this because it’s so boringly derivative.” Aaron White

“The big climax occurs way out in the middle of nowhere, between two characters who realize the gravity of their situation and whose actions are therefore impossible to predict. While possessing little of the gore Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs had, The Little Things nevertheless achieves a pervasive sense of dread. All three main actors give pitch-perfect performances.” The Aisle Seat

“Even worse than not even caring if the bad guy gets caught in a movie like this is not even caring if he even did it. By the time the big twist arrives (and I use that term generously), that I actually laughed out loud. In the end, The Little Things is a disappointing example of talent gone awry, and a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks making a genre film is easy or that talented actors can’t get lost once in a while.” Awardswatch

” …The Little Things meanders around the idea of catching the killer and meanders around heavy talks of morality and life. Washington’s acting and the mystique surrounding his character, while somewhat engaging, cannot entirely save this movie […] It’s a film that wants to present interesting themes and characters, yet tarnishes such attempts through its brutally sluggish and muddled narrative.” Bloody Disgusting

“While The Little Things isn’t a game-changer in the crime thriller genre. It is very entertaining, watchable and loaded with great performances and scenery. You can’t go wrong if you decide to check it out.” Bulletproof Action

The Little Things on HBO Max is a new crime thriller that is both fascinating and flawed. It’s always a pleasure to watch Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington do his thing, and his chemistry with Acadamy Award-winning actor Rami Malek makes that even more delightful […]  At the same time, the film from writer/director John Lee Hancock is also confusing, thanks to uneven plotting and a muddled tone.” Decider

“It’s a low-key character study not concerned with pleasing audiences, using its all-star cast and their range as performers to offset revealing its cards early. The enjoyable elements of The Little Things are little and worthwhile, whereas the bigger, more necessary pieces are missing like a critical clue that connects all the jigsaw pieces.” Flickering Myth

“What really resonates, though, is the acting. Washington and Malek […] are both great, but Leto is utterly mesmerising here. From those eerie brown contacts in his eyes to a walk that feels Frankenstein-like, it’s a true transformation that’ll send shivers your way. Factor in the grungy, noir-y lensing from Director of Photography John Schwartzman and The Little Things has all the ingredients of a first-rate twisted tale.” Games Radar

“I can’t say that The Little Things is a great movie overall, but I can say that I was moderately entertained. It’s probably because (like many others, apparently) I find it fun to watch someone like Denzel Washington gracing films like this that sound beneath him on paper. Hancock’s latest is a lot of empty calories with some A-list sheen.” The Gate

” …at a time when even small-screen procedurals have perma-frowned detectives who spend more time haunted by their past than actually solving crimes in the present, it all feels a little too familiar and a little too minor. As a slow, meditative character-driven drama, it’s too shallow and as a dark, disturbing serial killer thriller, it’s too boring and so quite who this film is for remains a bigger mystery than the one at its centre.” The Guardian

“If the director’s generally taut original screenplay settles on an ending too cryptic to be fully satisfying, the performances of Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as cops from the old school and the new who end up having more in common than they anticipated supply enough glue to hold everything together. Add in Jared Leto as the taunting weirdo who becomes their prime suspect in a series of brutal murders, and you have a suspenseful crime thriller with a dark allure.” The Hollywood Reporter

“It’s disappointing to see a triad of talented actors like Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto wasted in The Little Things, a straightforward and seldom surprising murder-mystery. Though Leto does his best to keep things interesting with a murder suspect so intent on appearing guilty that it borders on parody, John Lee Hancock’s neo-noir doesn’t do nearly enough to stand out…” IGN

The Little Things is an atmospheric, well made and disturbing movie carried by a cast that sells the pain of a life solving crime, but falls a few little pieces short of putting together an engaging puzzle.” Killer Horror Critic

” …an introspective crime thriller that is in no rush to win your affections. It’s an unusual approach to an exhausted genre that when it hits, it shakes the heavens and when it misses, it peels paint. The end result is a complex, adult-oriented, inverted chamber piece in which the prison is the mind’s eye, full if bad memories and the voices of the dead.” Kyle Jonathan

” …a competent but pretentious bit of hackwork that thinks its pointless ambiguities make it what the kids used to call a “character study” at the expense of both fun and its duty to genre. And as much as it pains me to say so, Denzel is actually bad in it, because he’s been allowed to phone it in, and you can see how bored he is.” Matt Lynch

” …while the story in The Little Things resembles the kind of generic police thriller that Hollywood regularly churned out in the ‘90s, Hancock slyly weaves in more and more complex thematic material until we’ve come out with something entirely different. While climactic scenes with the detectives and their suspect out in an isolated field explicitly recall David Fincher’s Se7en, the lasting impact of The Little Things is more along the lines of Zodiac.” The Prague Reporter

” …it takes quite a while for Leto, almost unrecognizable wearing dark contacts and a nose prosthetic even if the long hair and beard are his usual, to be introduced and, sadly, he’s really the only interesting character in the film, taunting, intelligent and guarded, posing a very eerie threat. It’s Deke we’re supposed to be interested in, but Hancock keeps introducing aspects of his character only to leave them dangling.” Reeling Reviews

“It feels like Hancock is trying to tell a very “True Detective” story—one about how a case can pull the people investigating it apart from the inside in a way that breaks them forever—but he can’t figure out how to shape that into an intriguing mystery simultaneously. By the time it’s over, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s added up to, well, nothing.”

The Little Things plays very much like it might have played were it made in the 1990s, except that the characters and narrative turns are far more familiar now. Such familiarity breeds, not contempt, but a greater appreciation for the elements that stand out, such as the performances by Washington and Malek, who both dig into their roles effectively, and a very effective supporting cast.” Screen Anarchy

“It’s the little things that rip this movie apart. From the poorly paced script, the ridiculous serial killer tropes to a predictable ending that was intended to blindside the audience. Every little plot point is recycled from better experiences (see Mindhunters, Se7en, Zodiac).” Spoiler Free Reviews

The Little Things is in the grisly forensics genre, with episodes unfolding at blood-splattered murder sites viewed through ultraviolet light, as well as a pleasing narrative tangle or two. Yet this sort of clinical detective movie hinges on creating a feeling of revelation, a kind of horror-saturated awe. The Little Things is just a warmed-over set of serial-killer-thriller clichés…” Variety

“The film does offer Washington in quietly-intense mode, which is always worth a look, and Hancock’s location scouts Cary Heckmann and Jill Naumann have found some new and unique corners of one of the most-filmed cities on Earth, but overall, The Little Things — which is how Deke refers to the details that lead to killers being caught — isn’t much of anything.” The Wrap

The Little Things was released theatrically and on HBO Max by Warner Bros on January 29th 2021.

Ending explained and explored [major spoilers – only read once you have seen the film]:

“Deke and Baxter are painted as Good Men who do a Bad Thing, and then the film tries to swim in the grey area where they live with the guilt of their actions, but also find some semblance of peace by trying to put the world back together in a way that makes sense. They’ve received closure but at a high personal cost.” Collider

The Little Things twist ending completely changes the way we see Denzel Washington’s character. We knew that he was consumed by the need to catch a serial killer, but now we see just how much that obsession clouded his judgment. He had a gut feeling about Albert, but he was wrong. He and Baxter broke protocol, went around the law, and eventually killed an innocent (albeit extremely creepy and weird) man for nothing.” Decider

“The truth of Sparma’s guilt, and whether he is a ghost or a demon left to haunt these men, remains unknowable. Barring more victims, it will just be a little thing extra to keep Deke up at night, a burden he’s tried to take away from Jim. Yet one thing’s for certain: neither of them are angels.” Den of Geek

“By playing into the hackneyed tropes of cyclic inevitability in the neo-noir genre, wherein the young, promising, morally scrupulous cop repeats history by aping the actions of the guilt-ridden, disgraced, older cop, The Little Things emerges as a limiting, dated period piece set in the ‘90s. The ending not only absolves Baxter of guilt but further feeds into his delusion that his actions were justified and that justice had been meted out.” Screen Rant

Main cast and characters:
Denzel Washington … Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon
Rami Malek … Jim Baxter
Jared Leto … Albert Sparma
Chris Bauer … Detective Sal Rizoli
Michael Hyatt … Flo Dunigan
Terry Kinney … LASD Captain Carl Farris
Natalie Morales … Detective Jamie Estrada
Isabel Arraiza … Ana Baxter
Joris Jarsky … Detective Sergeant Rogers
Glenn Morshower … Captain Henry Davis
Sofia Vassilieva … Tina Salvatore
Jason James Richter … Detective Williams
John Harlan Kim … Officer Henderson
Frederick Koehler … Stan Peters
Judith Scott … Marsha
Maya Kazan … Ronda Rathbun
Tiffany Gonzalez … Julie Brock
Anna McKitrick … Mary Roberts
Sheila Houlahan … Paige Callahan
Ebony N Mayo … Tamara Ewing (as Ebony N. Mayo)
Matt Morrison … Guy Jogger
Olivia Washington … Amy Anders
Kiff VandenHeuvel … Tow Truck Driver
J. Downing … Flanders
Sean Spann … Ghoul Squad
Sophia Castro … Jennifer Baxter

Filming locations:
Santa Clarita, California
Ventura, California (Shell Road exit)

Filming dates:
2nd September 2019 onwards

Technical details:
127 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.39: 1

Fun facts:
Writer/Director John Lee Hancock originally wrote the screenplay for the film almost thirty years ago (1993) after completing his work on the Clint Eastwood picture A Perfect World.

Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, and Danny De Vito were all attached to direct The Little Things at one point previously.


YouTube reviews:

Our comment and rating:
A slightly flawed yet fascinating study of two cops’ psyches with performances that draw the viewer in deeper.

MOVIES and MANIA rating:

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