Movie Reviews: Review and Synopsis Hollywood Movie: The Little Things (2021)
The Little Things is a 2021 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by John Lee Hancock and produced by Hancock and Mark Johnson. Set in early 1990s Los Angeles, the film follows detectives (Denzel Washington and Rami Malek) who investigate a string of murders, which lead them to a strange loner who may be the culprit (Jared Leto). The film also stars Natalie Morales.
The film was originally set to be directed by Steven Spielberg and star Danny DeVito, Clint Eastwood, and Warren Beatty, but the film languished in development hell. DeVito, Eastwood, and Beatty separated themselves from the project before it was announced in 2019 that Hancock would direct. The new cast was also announced in 2019 and included Malek, Leto, and Washington. Principal photography began in Los Angeles on September 2, 2019, and wrapped in December 2019.
The Little Things was released in the United States on January 29, 2021, by Warner Bros. Pictures, both theatrically and, for one month, simultaneously on the HBO Max streaming service. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the cast. For his performance, Leto received Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The Little Things (2021) Synopsis
One night in 1990, a girl drives on a highway, stalked by a motorist. After stopping at an abandoned gas station, she catches the attention of a passing truck driver and escapes her pursuer.
Sometime later in Bakersfield, Kern County deputy sheriff Joe "Deke" Deacon is sent to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to collect evidence about a recent murder. Deacon, a former L.A. Sheriff's detective, accompanies recently appointed lead detective Jimmy Baxter to the scene of a new murder in L.A. Deacon notices similarities between the M.O. of the killing and the M.O. of an old serial murder case he was unable to solve.
That night, a woman named Ronda Rathbun is followed by a car while jogging and is reported missing the following morning. Baxter learns from the precinct's captain Farris that Deacon got divorced and suffered a heart attack due to his obsession with the unsolved case. Baxter is advised not to involve Deacon any further, but Deacon takes vacation leave to assist in solving Baxter's case.
The next night, the police discover the body of another victim washed up beneath a bridge. Baxter learns the M.O. is consistent with that of the earlier murder and others: the victims were all sex workers who were stabbed to death. Deacon begins investigating Albert Sparma, a suspect working at a repair store in proximity to the murders.
Deacon tails Sparma but is thwarted, so he takes Sparma in for questioning. While under interrogation, Sparma taunts the detectives and is released after provoking Deacon into an angry outburst. The young woman pursued in the desert is interviewed but sees Sparma in handcuffs at the police station which effectively compromises her eligibility as an objective witness for identifying him as a suspect.
The FBI is called in to take charge of the investigation within the week, giving Deacon and Baxter less time to resolve it. Farris informs Baxter that eight years prior, Sparma confessed to a murder which he couldn't possibly have committed and is thus an unlikely suspect. Sparma's fingerprint is similar to the killer's but not a definitive match.
Baxter and Deacon go to Sparma's apartment and conduct an illegal search, but find nothing incriminating. As Deacon searches the apartment, his portable police scanner goes off and he narrowly escapes from Sparma's home after Sparma calls in an "officer down" report at that address. Police arrive and Deacon escapes while Baxter sees Sparma watching the ordeal.
While surveilling Sparma, Baxter corners the suspect alone and demands to know Rathbun's location. Sparma offers to drive him to where he supposedly hid Rathbun's body. Baxter cautiously agrees while Deacon secretly follows. Sparma takes Baxter to a remote area in the desert and has him dig several holes before telling Baxter that he never killed anyone.
Skeptical, Baxter continues digging. Sparma begins to taunt him until Baxter snaps and strikes him in the face with the shovel, killing him. As Deacon arrives, a flashback reveals that he accidentally shot the one survivor of his last murder case and that Farris and Dunigan, the coroner, helped cover it up. Deacon instructs Baxter to bury Sparma in the desert.
Deacon spends the night collecting everything in Sparma's apartment and disposing of his vehicle. Then he returns to the desert the following morning to find that Baxter has not buried Sparma but is instead still searching for the victim, desperate to believe Sparma is the killer. Deacon advises him to forget about the case, or it will haunt him for life.
Later, at his home, Baxter receives an envelope sent by Deacon, containing a red barrette like the one Ronda Rathbun was wearing when she was abducted. Back in Kern County, Deacon burns everything he collected in the apartment, along with a brand new pack of barrettes that are missing the red one. The film ends as he walks away.
Cast for The Little Things (2021)
Denzel Washington as Joe "Deke" Deacon, a Kern County Deputy Sheriff
Rami Malek as LASD Det. Jim Baxter
Jared Leto as Albert Sparma
Chris Bauer as Det. Sal Rizoli
Michael Hyatt as Flo Dunigan
Terry Kinney as LASD Captain Carl Farris
Natalie Morales as Det. Jamie Estrada
Isabel Araiza as Ana Baxter
Joris Jarsky as Det. Sergeant Rogers
Glenn Morshower as Captain Henry Davis
Sofia Vassilieva as Tina Salvatore
Jason James Richter as Det. Williams
John Harlan Kim as Officer Henderson
Frederick Koehler as Stan Peters
Judith Scott as Marsha
Maya Kazan as Rhonda Rathbun
Tiffany Gonzalez as Julie Brock
Anna McKitrick as Mary Roberts
Sheila Houlahan as Paige Callahan
Olivia Washington as Amy Anders
Ebony N. Mayo as Tamara Ewing
Lee Garlington as Landlady
Charlie Saxton as Felix
The film was theatrically released in the United States on January 29, 2021, by Warner Bros. Pictures. It also had a simultaneous release on the HBO Max streaming service for 31 days, as part of Warner Bros.' plan for all of its 2021 films. It was the most-watched item on the platform in its debut weekend, with Samba TV reporting that 1.4 million households streamed the film over its opening weekend. The film was released on Premium VOD on March 19, 2021.
Box office for The Little Things (2021)
The Little Things grossed $15.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $14.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $29.8 million.
Additionally, the same day was released by received wide release including Nomadland and was projected to gross around $2.5 million in its opening weekend. It ended up debuting at $4.8 million from 2,171 theaters, topping the box office; 55% of the audience was male, while 80% were over the age of 25. Internationally, the film grossed $2.8 million from 18 markets for a worldwide start of $7.6 million. The film remained atop the box office both domestically and abroad in its second weekend, with $2.1 million and $1.4 million, respectively. The film made $2.4 million over its third weekend, the four-day President's Day slate, and was dethroned by holdover The Croods: A New Age then made $1.2 million in its fourth weekend.
Movie Reviews for The Little Things (2021)
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 45% of 256 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 5.4/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "An exceptionally well-cast throwback thriller, The Little Things will feel deeply familiar to genre fans -- for better and for worse."On Metacritic, it holds a weighted average score of 54 out of 100 based on 48 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale, and PostTrak reported 67% of filmgoers gave the film a positive score, with 40% saying they would definitely recommend it.
David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a grade of B and compared it to Seven, writing, "The Little Things is pulpy and ridiculous and requires some major suspension of disbelief, but — if you didn't know any better — you might even say it's beautiful.
"David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "If the director's generally taut original screenplay settles on an ending too cryptic to be fully satisfying, the performances of Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as cops from the old school and the new who end up having more in common than they anticipated supply enough glue to hold everything together. Add in Jared Leto as the taunting weirdo who becomes their prime suspect in a series of brutal murders, and you have a suspenseful crime thriller with a dark allure."
Writing for The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, explaining, "Hancock keeps the action moving briskly and with little tonal confusion, highlighting just what a polished studio-favored professional can do when given gobs of money and zero intellectual-property obligations. And his trio of leading men is all given ample space to play to their strengths.
"[Benjamin Lee of The Guardian gave the film 2 out of 5 stars, specifying, "at a time when even small-screen procedurals have perma-frowned detectives who spend more time haunted by their past than actually solving crimes in the present, it all feels a little too familiar and a little too minor."Writing for RogerEbert.com, Brian Tallerico gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, and said, "It feels like Hancock is trying to tell a very True Detective story—one about how a case can pull the people investigating it apart from the inside in a way that breaks them forever—but he can't figure out how to shape that into an intriguing mystery simultaneously."
Nick Schager of The Daily Beast wrote, "The ghost of Seven lives on with The Little Things, as does Denzel Washington's search for the type of great serial killer thriller he missed out on when he turned down the lead role in David Fincher's 1995 genre classic. John Lee Hancock's film is deeply indebted in both style and plot particulars to that predecessor, although unfortunately for it—and its headliner—its modest suspense is largely offset by the fact that there's nothing substantial or especially original lurking beneath its eerie exterior."