‘The Little Things:’ A Satisfying Crime Thriller Worth Watching


“The Little Things” (Courtesy Warner Bros.)

By Oakley Burt, Arts Editor


The true-crime genre and its fictional counterpart — a genre full of gory, violent deaths, missing people and haunted detectives trying to piece events together — have become entertainment staples over the last decade. The allure of true crime seems to be in the thrill of it all, even if we don’t want to admit it. The violence in these stories, the search for the truth and the imminent danger always around the corner keep viewers on the edge of their seats, allowing us to explore a darker world and return to normal life by switching off the TV.

I admit I’m a huge fan of the true-crime genre — both fictional and not. After finishing the latest real true-crime documentary “Night Stalker” on Netflix, I was looking for a new show to watch. It just so happened that Warner Bros. had released a new psychological crime thriller called “The Little Things” on Jan. 29 — perfect timing. 

“The Little Things”

Directed by John Lee Hancock, “The Little Things” stars Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto. The film is set in the ‘90s in Los Angeles, California, a time period and location that was home to some of the most prolific serial killers. 

“The Little Things” wastes no time setting the scene and plotting its trajectory. Opening with a woman driving alone in her car, a car suddenly speeds up and begins riding her tail. Obviously shaken, the woman turns down her music and stares stonily at the road ahead as the car switches lanes and passes her — one minute in, and my anxiety was already through the roof. The woman continues driving, speeds up and passes said car, only for its driver to continue to stalk her. Suddenly, a gas station is in sight and she veers off the road, the car following right behind her. As she gets out of her car, frantically running in searching for help, she is pursued by a man — forcing her to run into the California desert.

The film then cuts to one of its main characters, Joe Deacon (Washington), a Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy — who is begrudgingly tasked with traveling to Los Angeles to pick up evidence. At the LAPD, Deacon is visibly uncomfortable, and so are the officers he encounters — although it’s clear they know each other. While leaving, Deacon meets Jim Baxter (Malek), the new hotshot detective tasked with solving the gruesome murders of four women in the surrounding area. Tensions between Deacon and Baxter run high, as it is revealed that Deacon was a former detective for the LAPD and the case Baxter is working is similar to one Deacon worked on years ago.

Joe Deacon (Washington) and James Baxter (Malek) in “The Little Things.” (Courtesy Warner Bros.)

A Cat and Mouse Game

With no suspects in the case, Deacon soon partners up with Baxter to hunt down the killer preying on young women, who may have been active back when he was on the force. As the two begin to investigate the case together, they suspect a local handyman, Albert Sparma (Leto) to be the killer. And soon, we’re given a three-way tango between a detective, a former detective and a suspected serial killer. This is when “The Little Things” intensifies, with Deacon and Baxter consumed by their obsession with Sparma as the killer, and Sparma continually taunting them. 

The case takes some unexpected turns, keeping viewers guessing who the real killer is. But as the clues and leads accumulate, it becomes less of a whodunit story and focuses more on what the case does to the detectives.

Joe Deacon (Washington) and Albert Sparma (Leto) in “The Little Things.” (Courtesy Warner Bros.)


Throughout the entire 127 minute runtime, my attention was solely focused on the film. What kept me interested were the little things about each character. The chemistry between the trio is odd, but it’s the curious energies they bring that elevate the story. “The Little Things” makes clear that Baxter is the upstart detective, and Sparma is the hollow-eyed, long-haired, creepy suspect. It’s Deacon’s past, however — the mystery haunting and pushing him to get wrapped up in a case he has no business being involved in again — that reels viewers in. The scenes in which I couldn’t help but look suspiciously at Malek, or wonder skeptically about the seeming guilt of Leto — he could just be a weird guy after all — kept me alert and from veering totally off course. 

The story is essentially one that’s been done before, and there’s something to be said for what it owes to its predecessors — “Seven,” “Zodiac” and “Mindhunter” — for paving the way. The majority of the movie demands little description, but because you can more or less expect what’s going to happen, it’s easy to anticipate lines like, “It’s the little things that are important, Jimmy. It’s the little things that get you caught.”

Overall, I enjoyed the film and would recommend it to anyone. “The Little Things” is now streaming on HBO Max

3/5 stars


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