This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Creasy007’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"What are you so scared of, little boy?"
Beautifully shot and sporadically captivating, though certainly underwhelming in its twists and revelations while feeling a bit misguided as a whole, John Lee Hancock's 'The Little Things' brings Denzel Washington back to the murder mystery genre, as an ex-detective who finds himself back in Los Angeles, working on a new host of serial killings that may have ties to an unsolved case from his past. He teams up with Rami Malek, who I really love, even if he does feel a bit miscast here as the lead detective in charge who seems to have his own demons, and their main suspect is a soft spoken, creepy Jared Leto, who is excellent as always. It's moody and atmospheric, taking place in the early '90s for seemingly no reason, other than to evoke that old school feel, and it has a phenomenally ethereal score by Thomas Newman, evoking some bits from 'American Beauty,' I felt.
Having said that, I felt the film dropped way too many clues, red herrings and whatnot for it to conclude the way it did, feeling like a heavy 'Seven' copycat without the brutal payoff. The film even manages to evoke the title several times, noting that "it's the little things that get you caught," but viewers are robbed of any real "aha" or "gotcha" moments, in my opinion. Leto's Sparma is methodical, twisted and highly intelligent, but the clear indicators that he's the killer have alternative explanations, too. Malek's Baxter becomes way too obsessed and driven to find the answers - bringing Deacon's (Washington) story from five years prior full circle, as he's now on the other side of helping someone out who has murdered due to their rage or lack of focus - and we're left with no answers; the main suspect is dead and the only confirmation we could get (seeing if more bodies pile up in the same fashion now Sparma is gone) doesn't come before the credits roll. I don't need everything spelled out for me, but I do prefer having a more satisfying ending for a two hour plus mystery.
There's a lot of things this film gets right and there's also an equal amount of missteps and issues. The performances are solid, I appreciated the retro feel, even if it feels superficial, and the inherent mystery and chase is very exciting, but with a plot structure like this, you're left awaiting a banging twist that never arrives. Instead, it opens up this universe to show just how corrupt and self-centered most of these characters are, understandably so, to a small degree, but that doesn't make them any more likable or their fates any more gripping. I like the new relationships formed and the old ones that are revitalized, showcasing a history these characters share, but I also wanted more from them, more from the mystery and storytelling and reveals. Adjust your expectations with this one and you might have some fun.