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‘The Little Things’ Review: An Incredible Piece of Classic Crime Fiction

Dir. John Lee Hancock — 4.5 Stars

Denzel Washington stars as Joe "Deke" Deacon in "The Little Things."
Denzel Washington stars as Joe "Deke" Deacon in "The Little Things." By Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
By Mikel J. Davies, Crimson Staff Writer

With an array of artfully shot scenes, “The Little Things” brings back the feel of a classic crime thriller. In the same vein as “Se7en,” this film takes its time to develop while leading the viewer through a familiar, yet completely satisfying journey. With riveting twists and turns, the film is a carefully crafted masterpiece. Following Detective Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) as he gets roped into a string of mysterious murders alongside the up-and-coming Detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), “The Little Things” unearths fractured pasts and illuminates the dark, twisted motivation behind a string of horrible murders targeting young girls.

With stars like Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto, it's difficult to end up with a boring film. The three actors build off of each other’s performances with incredible ease. Even simple gestures, like the wave of a hand from Leto’s character Albert Sparma as he’s interviewed by the police, is a powerful display of talent.

Despite limited screentime, Leto’s disturbingly playful attitude contributes to a jaw-dropping performance. It’s astounding the way that Leto demands attention throughout the film. The sheer horrifying intensity in his eyes when audiences first see him injects a violent sense of unease. It’s these simple actions — these little things — throughout the movie that make his performance terrifying yet absolutely astounding. It’s unsurprising, but always impressive, that an acclaimed method actor is able to dive that deep into the mind of a sick, twisted man.

In another noteworthy performance, Rami Malek, playing Jim Baxter, exudes the steady confidence of a young, up and coming detective who is willing to do whatever it takes to make amends for these brutally murdered girls. Scene to scene as the film progresses, the discomfort he feels becomes increasingly visible as he pursues Sparma and glimpses the horror encapsulated in this one man’s life. That is until he finally sees the twisted, machiavellian display of apathy towards another man laid out clear. At this point, his face becomes absolutely emotionless — void, pure apathy. He can’t pursue this monster within the confines of the law.

And finally, Denzel Washington. As the main character, Joe “Deke” Deacon has a personality that can’t quite be pinned down. He’s a man truly caught in the intersection of complete apathy and a deeply-rooted desire to amend his past wrongs. Regardless, it seems an unfortunate mistake of his past has completely darkened his soul. In his scenes, he’s consistently a silhouette basked in eerie shadow.

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It is the combination of these three phenomenal actors and their beautifully written characters that make this movie shine; it's the stark contrasts between these central characters that brings vitality to the film.

Unsurprisingly, with John Lee Hancock behind the camera and at the writing table, “The Little Things” was destined to be great. With a well-accoladed and successful career, which includes films like “The Blind Side” and “Saving Mr. Banks," the director effortlessly turned towards the dark side. The entirety of “The Little Things” runs as a well-organized exercise in chaos.

“The Little Things” echoes the successes of “Se7en” in one final way: the mystery only grows as the movie reaches its climax. Just as the man cleanses the city of its sins in “Se7en” and never reveals his final secret, so too do the mysteries of “The Little Things” die with the closing shots of the film, never to be solved. This nod to another great film shows just how wonderful this newest crime thriller truly is. By creating genuine characters and paying close attention to every detail — the lighting in the background of every scene, the careful dialogue of the supporting actors — Hancock entrances the audience and takes them on a wild ride.

— Staff Writer Mikel Davies can be reached at

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