The Little Things

The Little Things ★★★

"Don't you ever get tired of looking at dead bodies?"

Given the negativity this high profile serial killer flick seemed to receive, it's fair to say my expectations were substantially kept in check. The lure of a flashy trailer, coupled with the big name cast attached had previously caught my interest. I hadn't expected a vintage Fincher level movie, but maybe it had something new to say? Well, it certainly proved to be better than I'd anticipated, with an attention grabbing (not to mention nerve shredding) opening scenes. It's very slickly done, and sets it's stall out nicely.
Lead Denzel Washington has been criticized for sleepwalking through this, but his far more muted, heavy eyed burned out cop (is there any other?) worked for me. I completely brought into a character very much emotionally broken, and trying to atone for his sins of the past. It is slightly at the expense of his natural charisma, but made a change - not all roles can be Alonzo Harris!
Jared Leto's kooky eyed loner doesn't appear until the 40 minute mark and lifts the material somewhat, just when it's in danger of being too generic. As the trail leads to his oddball prime suspect, a game of cat and mouse ensues. All signs point to Leto, but is he really guilty? I'm not Letos' biggest fan and found him to be the only weak link in the magnificent Blade runner sequel. He does however acquit himself here, giving off the creepiest of auras, and a piercing stare that few onscreen villains manage. His slightly manic approach borrows from Heath Ledger's Joker playbook in parts, especially in an interrogation sequence.
Rami Malek's casting was much derided, but I'm on the fence with this one. He's an unusual choice as the confident, ambitious detective, who always gets his man. The dynamic with Washington doesn't always work, but by the closing scenes, Malek had convinced me he was worthy of the role. Here's hoping he makes more of an impression in Bond 25.
Director John Lee Hancock never rivals Zodiac, Se7en, or even Copycat in the genre, but it's an entertaining enough diversion. After a strong first act, it's unfortunately a little flabby in the mid section (not unlike Leto's character Albert), before having a strong finish and boasting a sucker punch ending. The ambiguity of the ending (which many will hate) reminded me a lot of the unrelentingly bleak, but underrated jack Nicholson film The Pledge. Both films never quite deliver the catharsis needed, although they still work in terms of avoiding the usual serial killer tropes. It gives the film a much needed hard edge, and demands a post viewing discussion.
Overall, it's an unfairly maligned but flawed thriller, that is still worth a look.

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