Denzel Washington in The Little Things

Denzel Washington returns to the big screen with fellow Academy Award winners Rami Malek and Jared Leto in their new thriller The Little Things. Written and directed by John Lee Hancock, the film focuses on Denzel Washington's Deputy Sheriff Joe "Deke" Deacon and Rami Malek's Sergeant Jim Baxter teaming up to track a serial killer who has been terrorizing the city of Los Angeles. Jared Leto plays the prime suspect, and he has spoken about the similarities between his character, Albert Sparma, and the DC supervillain The Joker from David Ayer's Suicide Squad.

The Little Things debuts in theaters and on HBO Max this Friday, and critiques have started to roll in.

CinemaBlend’s own Eric Eisenberg saw the film, and his official review is mostly negative. He argues that The Little Things leaves something to be desired, and that even Denzel Washington and Rami Malek’s star power wasn’t enough to save this “blah thriller.” He writes in his review,

The film has a firm foundation to build on in the genre, three above-the-title stars as leads, and it envelops the audience in the proper seedy aesthetic, but what it’s lacking is a screenplay with punch or originality. It winds up trapped in its own plotting, and though there are exciting sequences built in, it struggles to overcome its inherent issues.

A lack of originality has been noted in other critics' reviews, as well. Owen Gleiberman of Variety pointed out that The Little Things feels like a rerun. He notes that Jared Leto anchors the best sequence in the film, but says that the rest of the movie simply can’t catch up to the standard that that scene raised:

That said, you’ve seen this kind of performance before. And you’ve really seen the rest of the movie before - almost literally, since The Little Things... is a serial-killer procedural that would like to be Se7en, with a great many touches lifted from Manhunter, but it plays more like a not-so-very-special episode of “C.S.I."

Alonso Duralde of The Wrap had similar critiques of The Little Things, referring to it as a TV series that has been “roughly chopped into an ungainly two-hour feature.” Though Duralde does point out that Denzel Washington’s “quietly-intense mode” is always worth watching, he critiques the characters, saying:

...There need to be characters to study, and neither Deke (Denzel Washington) nor Jim (Rami Malek) strays too far from a thousand cops we’ve seen in a thousand cop movies… overall, The Little Things isn’t much of anything.

Chris Evangelista of Slashfilm seemed intrigued by Denzel Washington’s performance as well, noting that he is “predictably captivating.” But he notes that the premise of two polar opposite cops who team up to stop a lunatic is also predictable. John Lee Hancock penned the script for The Little Things back in 1993, and Evangelista points out that:

As entertaining as it may be to revel in the 1990s setting of it all, not updating the script makes The Little Things feel all the more dated. The bad guys are one-note creeps; the men are stoic and violent; the women only exist to be either background noise or helpless victims. Even some 30 years ago all of this would’ve felt dated. Today, The Little Things has even less to offer.

The Little Things critiques are not negative across the board, as David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter was captivated by Denzel Washington and Rami Malek’s performances. Rooney notes that the addition of Jared Leto’s “taunting weirdo” makes the film “suspenseful… with a dark allure.” He continues:

What keeps the film gripping is its textured scrutiny of the principal characters... The filmmakers use their locations to create a soul-sucking crime canvas in which it's all too easy for men of the law to lose themselves.

The critical response to The Little Things so far has been somewhat negative, so it will be interesting to see how moviegoers react to the film. The release of the film on HBO Max in addition to a theatrical release should allow for more people to see the movie, so we'll have to wait and see.

The Little Things will be available on HBO Max and in theaters this Friday, and in the meantime, check out our full list of every movie coming out in 2021.

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