Duration: 127 minutes. Rated R (violent / disturbing images, language and full nudity) In select theaters and on HBO Max.
Rule # 1 for any detective story: The mystery can’t be boring.
Put in all the moral and ethical dilemmas and Oscar winners you want, but without a satisfying maze for us to work with, your film will be a forgettable coin of police jargon and meditative underlining. The latest example is Denzel Washington’s anemic drama, “The Little Things,” which is less fascinating than some ants.
“The Little Things” isn’t, as its sympathetic title suggests, about a Vermont woman selling tchotchkes. It’s, like a preponderance of fun these days, the story of a serial killer who preyed on Los Angeles women in the 1990s.
Washington plays Joe Deacon, a police officer from Kern County, California, who one day goes to the big city to take a test, but is unexpectedly ruined by Sheriff Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) to help find him. ruthless stranger. assassin.
“We haven’t been under this scrutiny since the Night Stalker!” exclaims a frustrated cop. The department has no conduct, and the community is tired and scared. Enter: Deacon, a less funny Sherlock Holmes guy who notices details that most other detectives lack.
“Little things matter, Jimmy,” Deacon says. “It’s the little things that take you.”
Deacon is not an unlikely suburban genius; he was a first-time dog with the LAPD years earlier, but left after breaking under pressure during a case. There are foggy flashbacks to that violent night throughout.
Washington is at its best when challenged – check out its brilliant and transformative exploits as a disaster lawyer in “Roman J. Israel, Esq”. – but Deacon’s haunted chase is for him a snag in the park. The actor certainly didn’t endure sleepless nights worrying if he could master the role of a hardened authority figure with a dark past. He has innumerable times before.
On this slow boat trip to a movie, Joe and Jim chase after only one boss: Albert Sparma, a modified electronics store employee played by Jared Leto. I would add that Albert is a strip of tight hair, but he’s just our Jared. The character has a quality of Hannibal Lecter in that his speech is serpentine and he knows a disturbing amount of detectives. “I’m a little bit of a criminal,” Albert says. But there is no depth or structure to the part – just strangeness.
Malek, for one, acts like a normal human being. No goofy hacking, contrasting French prisoners or Freddie Mercury’s flamboyance – just a lead-able performance stripped.
It would be nice if some of the little things from writer-director John Lee Hancock’s film were enlarged. Who cares if there is beer in the fridge or who drinks milk? Remarkable moments last for what feels like hours. If the movie feels like it’s going wrong, it’s because it is. The weather scene drops Malek and Leto into an indescribable pile of earth and metal fences, and a shocking detour evokes memories of Moe and Larry.
The final moment – every 10 seconds – is great, and I suspect Hancock has built his film around it. Well, that’s a culture accusation of self-deprecating cops. But a couple of great and intriguing ideas doesn’t make a movie.
Say it to me, people: It’s the little things.