My Complicated Relationship with The Little Things

Elizabeth Fuire ’24 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

One of my favorite film genres is thrillers. Combine thrillers with a murder mystery, and you have something that is sure to make me tell all of my friends about it weeks before it comes out. That’s what I did with The Little Things. A dark murder mystery thriller starring Denzel Washington (legend, icon, wonderful human being), Rami Malek (one of my top loves and wholesome ray of sunshine), and Jared Leto (a man whom I have mixed feelings about and was not too excited to see next to the two powerhouses I mentioned before to be brutally honest).

To audiences, the trailer for The Little Things looked like a serious take on the classic “Cat and Mouse” 90s cop chase with elements of a mysterious past being unearthed in the process. It looked wonderfully intense and I was ready to hype up these performances for the awards season. When I finally watched it last night, I discovered that this film was very different from what it was previously thought to be. Basically, Washington plays Joe “Deke” Deacon, an old deputy sheriff that returns to LA to get evidence about a case in his station in Bakersfield, CA. He then gets wrapped up in a serial killer case with mysterious connections to a five year old cold case that he worked on during his time as a detective in LA. He teams up with Malek’s Jimmy Baxter, the new lead detective in LA to solve it. As more murders are discovered, they meet Leto’s Albert Sparma, a mysterious and creepy character working at a repair shop that gets tied into the case.

Now we’re starting to get into real spoiler territory, so be warned! Deacon and Baxter become more and more convinced that Sparma is their man, but any attempt to prove it gets foiled by compromised line-ups or missing key evidence. Finally, in a steak out gone wrong, Sparma brings Baxter to the middle of the LA desert and tricks him into thinking a final missing victim is buried out there. After some intense mind games and Baxter digging many holes, Sparma admits that this whole thing was a trick, and he’s no killer. In a stressed frenzy, Baxter slams him on the head with his shovel, killing Sparma instantly. With unfortunate timing, Deacon finally arrives at the scene to find a dead suspect and a stunned Baxter. The case is over. Their only suspect is dead, and they have no way of confirming whether it was really him or not. Deacon realises that the only thing left to do is bury the body, burn all of the evidence, and never speak of it again. Baxter takes time off and Deacon returns to Bakersfield. 

Denzel Washington, Jared Leto, and Rami Malek in The Little Things. Photo courtesy of IMDb.

Throughout the film, Baxter asks about a red beret that the final victim was apparently wearing at the time of her death. As he sits by his pool, he receives a package from Deacon containing none other than a red beret. He was right, and he can rest easy. We then cut back to Deacon at his house, burning the rest of the evidence. Finally, he grabs a small bag from the passenger’s seat of his car and stands by the small trash fire. He pulls out a package of new hair berets, the red one is missing, and tosses it into the fire. He then walks into his house, and the screen fades to black.

When I saw that ending, I almost forgave everything that led up to it. Almost. It really was a twist ending that I’ve never seen before; a twist on a twist, you could say. At the sight of the red beret, audiences could let out a sigh of relief along with Baxter. After all this time and effort, I hated the feeling of it all going to waste the way it did. So this felt like a satisfying end to this story. But that’s not all! That final shot of the package of berets felt like a knife right in the chest. That sigh of relief left my body in an instant, and I felt so defeated. Maybe it’s because I get really invested in any movie I watch, no matter how much I don’t actually enjoy it, but this really felt like a realistic ending to a realistic event and I really appreciated that. 

Despite my praise for the ending, I can’t just let everything else slide. As much as I love these actors, and they can make anything that they’re given into a great performance, the writing was just not it, especially for Malek. He was just so drab and most things that he said were so blatantly obvious that I couldn’t really take him seriously. The best line he said in the whole thing was definitely when he got angry while driving and let out this wonderful little “ahhh F**k!” that unintentionally provides a wonderful comedic moment.

Washington’s character was definitely the “wise man” and pretty much every other line he said reflected that. Leto’s character was definitely interesting, to say the least. Everything that happened to him he treated like a game, which could be what made him so creepy. I couldn’t really tell the stakes he had in these stressful situations and it always looked like he had a hidden plan. Honestly, it was a great performance from him and I don’t really have much else to say other than that I could not get past him having a beer belly. He was so grimy and scrawny looking but then that beer belly popped out and I had no idea what was going on. Plus, he walked like a man who has never had a beer belly before in his life. He sort of bounced around and swung his arms a little too much to be realistic. Maybe it was intentional, but I was just left confused.

John Hancock’s The Little Things was definitely not what I expected. I was neither amazed nor completely let down, but I didn’t leave this film happy. I think it kinda deserves it’s 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, because it’s a slow burn that didn’t need to be so slow with less than desirable writing. 

What makes my feelings so complicated however, is that the ending truly stuck with me as a great twist. It was a really creative turn of events and that is why I still think it stands out. Would I recommend this movie to anyone? No, I don’t think it’s worth it at all. Would I recommend this movie to people who like the genre or just slow burn movies in general? Yes! I would warn them that it’s not great, but the ending is worth it in my opinion, and I want to hear other people’s thoughts on it.

Maybe I’m just desperately trying to defend some of my favorite actors and a movie that I’ve been excited about for longer than it deserves. I’m not sure. But hey, I know I just spoiled the entire ending for you readers, but give it a watch on HBO Max if you want to see if I’m speaking the truth or utter nonsense for yourself!

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