The Little Things Is a Twisty Thriller About the Inner Lives of Bad Cops
The Little Things is a comfortable film about an uncomfortable subject: bad cops and how they feel about their misdeeds. If anything, given its subject matter, it’s a little too comfortable.
Ostensibly a throwback neo-noir crime thriller, the movie stars Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as a pair of mismatched police officers on the trail of a killer; the prime suspect is played with creepy affect by Jared Leto. But the movie is less interested in solving its central murder mystery than it is in plumbing the depths of darkness in police work. It’s an intriguing if not entirely successful riff on the cat-and-mouse cops-and-killers genre that was so prevalent in the 1990s. But it’s hard to say too much about it without spoiling the twisty, genre-fracturing ending. You’ve been warned.
What makes this movie so comforting isn’t just the powerhouse trio of leads, or even the return of the “slow burn Denzel Washington R-rated thriller,” an actor-specific subgenre that has been paying dividends to viewers for decades now. It’s the broad familiarity of the package—the stars, the material, the moody photography and score, the carefully calibrated mix of pulpy premise and modestly elevated execution.
It’s an ordinary studio movie, the kind that used to play year-round in multiplexes, even if only as a backdrop to the parade of superhero blockbusters, back when multiplexes were still a thing. It’s also a throwback to the ’90s, and films like Seven and Fallen (which also starred Washington). Not only is it set in that decade, conveniently omitting the possibility of cell phone conversations, but the script, by director John Lee Hancock, was written around that time too. At various points directors like Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg were attached to direct; it has the stripped-down, craftsmanlike feel of that era’s studio fare. Watching it on a big screen at home, from the comfort of your couch, on a chilly winter evening, is like bundling up with a mug of hot chocolate and a soft blanket. It’s cinematic hygge.
Technically, you can still see it at a theater, provided theaters are open where you live; as with so many excursions these days, you’ll have to get permission from your local mayor or governor to
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