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The Little Things: A Solid Throwback Thriller From John Lee Hancock

January 26, 2021
Poster courtesy of Warner Brothers

Written and directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side, The Founder), this psychological thriller asks interesting questions, and it will be neat to see how audiences react to the experience. 

The Little Things focuses on the unlikely partnership between Deputy Sheriff Joe “Jeke” Deacons (Denzel Washington) and Sergeant Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), as they hunt down a serial killer who has been plaguing the Los Angeles area. Deacons is an old-school officer who relies on instinct and experience when investigating, and Baxter is a tireless worker who is smart enough to ask Deacons for help (which says something good about him). Together, they patrol Los Angeles in their quest to prevent more death, which leads to a man named Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), who may-or-may-not be a suspect. From there, nothing will be spoiled, just know past secrets are uncovered, and the two men get much more than they bargained for. 

The Little Things does a solid job observing the cost of doggedly pursuing a goal. Like Hancock’s prior films such as The Highwaymen, which focused on the Bonnie and Clyde manhunt, or The Founder, which centered around the worldwide expansion of McDonalds (and the amount of hours it took), Hancock seems to enjoy writing and directing films about characters who follow their pursuits. Also, whether it’s bravely hunkering down at the Alamo (The Alamo), or becoming a major league pitcher late-in-life (The Rookie), Hancock loves determined people, who occasionally suffer (or die) while pursuing their ideals.

Hancock wrote the script for The Little Things in the 1990s, and says he only had to change about 5-10% of the script to make it work for modern day audiences. His refusal to change certain elements kept the project in limbo, and the wait paid off as Hancock was able to direct, and bring in an incredibly talented cast and crew of Oscar winners. There’s an embarrassment of riches in this production, and it’s a treat to watch three Academy Award winning actors (Washington, Malek, Leto – who all have much different acting methods) flexing their acting skills in the same room (designed by Academy Award nominated production designer Michael Corenblith). 

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

The cinematography by John Schwartzman (The Rock, Jurassic World, A Simple Favor) is excellent, as it focuses on shadows, leading lines, and long takes, to create an oppressive world in a sprawling city. The visual palette is interesting to watch, and almost follows a pattern that you may-or-may-not notice as the movie progresses. Throw in excellent costume design by Daniel Orlandi (Logan, Ford v. Ferrari), and a solid score from Thomas Newman (1917, Bridge of Spies), and you have a prestigious looking and sounding film that will be incredibly polarizing. 

Conclusion – I enjoyed The Little Things, and can’t wait to see the reaction to John Lee Hancock’s film. He fought to keep it as is, and we’ll see if his dogged approach pays off with critics and audiences.

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