A Glum, if moody throwback to 1990s police procedurals is more about the psychological than whodunit aspects.
Writer/director John Lee Hancock’s The Little Things bristles with obsession and eccentricity along with a dominant virility.
Hancock gets to have three Oscar winners as his principals Denzel Washington (as haunted cop ‘Deke’). Rami Malek as younger, Wiry Sgt. Jimmy Baxter, and Jared Leto as the derisive antagonist Albert with a slimy streak to go along with his stringy hair and prosthetic nose.
Embracing the dark allure without much authenticity from a script produced in the early 1990s is set in California (not the usual landmarks) as Deke heads to Los Angeles to retrieve evidence. He learns that old chum Sal (Chris Bauer) works with the hotshot Baxter on a chilling case of the Night Stalker variety that takes the grizzled veteran back to a murder five years earlier which brought on much physical and emotional hardship.
The crux of this ‘thriller’ includes where an investigation takes Deke and Jimmy who aren’t that dissimilar as they size up one another. Interplay works around respect with curiosity and swagger as an eerie, taut magnetism shows up in the lensing from John Schwartzman.
The star of The Equalizer, Man on Fire and Training Day uses his range to offer up some brittle snark in an examination of police culture. It plays well in the rough grisliness against Malek who isn’t as much in his element in this domain. Even as Jimmy earns more sympathy that expected later as a numbness pervades.
Eponymously noticing with some victims oddly resembling a certain loved one and particular habits may be left dangling as part of arch squalor feeding into Albert revels in quirky ambivalence at first when a service call is made. It seems like the most memorable scenes include Leto who delights in the horror and suspiciousness.
Hancock (maker of The Rookie and more recently The Founder) isn’t at able to find much inspiration from filmmakers like David Fincher and Jonathan Demme (though a prologue offers more nervy excitement for an introduction), The revelations aren’t that twisting or rewarding (with Detective Columbo given nod) as not so lurid noir unfolds before mobile phones and DNA profiling emerged.