Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
This story takes place in the 1990s, and it features a Kern County deputy and a Los Angeles detective that have to come together and investigate a serial killer. I had a lot of anticipation going into this film. Hancock is a solid choice to write and direct, and the cast is actually incredible. There are three Oscar winners at play here, but the character that hits the hardest is Denzel’s Joe Deacon. His backstory, which does get explored, is actually just as (if not more so) interesting as the main mystery. The film harkens back to films like Seven and Zodiac, but it doesn’t quite live up to Fincher’s finest due to the mediocre plot progression. What started off with a bang progressed into an almost lifeless and slightly dull slog in the second act.
The third act begins to gain that momentum back only to fall into the trap of “trying too hard to think outside of the box.” Instead of feeling excited about the reveals, I just felt unnecessarily confused. It isn’t even the “finality” (or lack there of) of it all that will confuse audiences, as it is essentially the idea of why they decided to write it that way in the first place. The finale expects us to believe that there is a camaraderie between some characters that feels forced. There is a focus on development, but it isn’t the development that this specific plot requires. It almost feels meaningless to this story. That isn’t to say that nothing interesting happens, but most of what we get doesn’t mean much at the end. What carries us is a good look to the film, excellent performances, and an overall solid grasp of the atmosphere.
A compelling story may have given this the boost it clearly needed to reach something like a Seven. Rami Malek is great, but there is a part of me that feels he was slightly miscast. Leto doesn’t necessarily overact, but there isn’t enough to justify certain moments we get from him. It is (again) not a reflection of poor performances, as it is just a criticism of the screenplay. The Little Things is a film that will come and go. Audiences will embrace it much more so than critics. It has all of the proper ingredients to convince some that it is smarter than it actually is, but seeing so many films like this prior (unfortunately) puts me in the mindset that The Little Things falls just short of what it attempts to do.