“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” – Stephen King
I’m not sure what it says about our society that we find the subject of crime, in particular murder, so fascinating. I suppose it’s because for most of us the thought of taking someone’s life is so foreign that learning about someone who saw murder as a viable life choice is at the very least interesting. Not to be emulated hopefully, just viewed, like a horrific car wreck. To be clear, I’m including myself in this group. My fascination with the subject seems to lie more in the fictional approach or based on stories, the movies about the unspeakable act, to be specific.
The Little Things is a story of murder and obsession. It is an example of dwelling on the things we cannot change. Instead of growth, the main character hides in shame and engages his world with a kind of resentment, even if the very thing he is running from is his own fault. His attempt at a kind of course correction is clouded by years of disgruntled behavior and a rather pessimistic outlook. While the motivation of a shunned sheriff and his newly acquainted department replacement technically fall into the realm of good deeds, these are two men jaded by the unfortunate realities of a profession like homicide detective. Still, a killer is on the loose and they are sworn to pursue and capture.
While I have no expertise on the matter, I would have to imagine something taught on the path to becoming a homicide detective is to leave biases at home. They can skew what could be an otherwise clear road to a suspect and eventual closure to a case. This is where the bloody water truly becomes murky as the two detective’s biases begin to steer their focus onto a man so obvious a choice it just feels wrong. It’s like those moments in a story when the cop finds evidence at the scene, a witness to corroborate the whole thing, all pointing to a particular suspect. What is it they always say? “It all feels too perfect. Too convenient.” Something like that.
Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) is that piece of convenience in the case of multiple homicides pointing to a possible serial murderer. He is slovenly in appearance, odd in social interactions and in general keeps to himself. He keeps odd hours and as we learn more about him, has an unhealthy preoccupation with homicide. But as I brought up earlier, if being obsessed with crime was a criminal offense we’d all be in cuffs right now. Still, he just feels off, the kind of person that two detectives might want to take a special interest in, if only to eliminate from their list of suspects.
Shunned sheriff (Denzel Washington) and his hotshot replacement (Rami Malek) may feel like a typical odd couple type pairing but any clichés are mostly overshadowed by strong performances from the two. Washington plays a tormented police officer with precision and a flair for what feels like authenticity through improvisation. He seems to really play well throwing something to another actor seeing what they return in response. This often makes for an exciting interaction between characters, in this case, many interactions.
If two legs can stand on their own, three legs, a tripod of talent if you will, must be all the more strong. Completing their trio of darkness and despair is Jared Leto as Albert, a loner with a tendency to be overly playful, often to a hostile and unnerving extent. Leto is no stranger to oddball characters, especially ones that allow him complete freedom to lose himself within their features, both physical and emotional. In a room with Washington and Malek, Leto not only holds his own but oftentimes commands the scene. The Little Things is a psychological thriller progressed by story but also character development. With the talents of Washington, the young prowess of Malek and Leto, their scenes together make for many moments of pulpy gratification.
I urge anyone that may experience the film in a similar manner as myself to stay with it until the end. By the beginning of the third act I was starting to wonder where the story was really going. I found the characters interesting and I was hooked by the subject of the story from the opening of the film. Any yet, at times I wasn’t exactly sold on the film as a whole, that is until the climax takes place putting the rest of the story into perspective. Once that occurred it all made sense in terms of what the story wanted us as the audience to take away from it. It suddenly made clear that what you may have been expecting, a typical detective/serial killer thriller, was more introspective than initially thought.
Its themes become clear and leave you with more questions than answers. This is the turmoil left behind when no clear choices present themselves. We, much the same as the detectives, are left wondering if the outcome is what should have taken place. They will forever wonder if they were right, no matter how obvious it all may have been at times. No matter how obvious he felt as a suspect. The Little Things ponders the choices we make and questions even the most respected among us. It’s an example of human behavior sometimes at its best, oftentimes at its most heinous.
Rated R For: violent/disturbing images, language and full nudity
Runtime: 127 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Starring: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Chris Bauer
Directed By: John Lee Hancock
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 8/ Acting: 9/ Directing: 8/ Visuals: 7
OVERALL: 8.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. In theaters and begins streaming on HBOMax, January 29th.
Check out the trailer below:
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