“The Little Things”: A Classic Crime-Thriller With Hazy Direction

Leuel Bekele, A&E Editor

Noir is an interesting genre in its somewhat ambiguous definition.

It covers an array of subthemes that range from paranoia to revenge, among other motifs. It offers up a lukewarm sense of justice that isn’t for the faint of heart. Such is the case with John Lee Hancock’s introspective neo-noir “The Little Things,” which saw its nationwide theatrical release on Jan. 28th.

The film revolves around jaded deputy sheriff Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) and hotshot detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) who work together to pin down the culprit in a serial killer case. The prime suspect is the seemingly culpable Albert Sparma (Jared Leto).

Deacon has a knack for weeding out “the little things” during investigations, which consistently proves useful in the field. Along with this skill, however, he carries the burden of past trauma that has left him a husk of his former self.

He sees that same dark potential in Baxter and wants to help him avoid the same fate. Throughout the movie, the audience is tossed breadcrumbs of context for Deacon’s broken psyche; it’s made clear that he’s gained an infamous reputation.

Baxter is everything Deacon could’ve been, which Baxter comes to realize as the story progresses. At first, Baxter judges the book by its cover and dismisses his partner as a washed-up cop who’s out of his element — but it’s soon revealed that Deacon is somewhat of a legend in the department.

As Deacon, Denzel Washington exudes a mysterious, brooding vibe that adds a layer of intrigue to his character that I hadn’t seen from him before. Rami Malek brings a worthy performance as Baxter that’s undermined by slow pacing which may prove troublesome for the impatient viewer.

Sparma’s scenes are captivating in the worst of ways. Jared Leto dons a creepy look in his eyes that screams guilty, and his behavior toward the detectives borders that of a crazed fan — which doesn’t help his case, but doesn’t make him any easier to prosecute. Sparma manages to say just enough to arouse suspicion, but so little as not to be fully culpable.

The end reveals were unflattering to say the least. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the film after the first watch, and I felt uneasy by the ambiguity of what I had just witnessed. Watching it a second time, it was kind of laughable to imagine that it all could’ve gone down the way it did.

In some ways, “The Little Things” felt inconclusive — much like the evidence the team had collected.

“The Little Things” can be streamed on HBO Max.