A mediocre plot saved by its performances

New thriller “The Little Things” is entertaining but unsatisfying

New crime film “The Little Things” follows a former and current L.A. detective as they try to crack open a serial killer case.

Photo courtesy of Imdb

New crime film “The Little Things” follows a former and current L.A. detective as they try to crack open a serial killer case.

Dana Summers, News Director

As a lover of all things mystery, I was ecstatic to hear about the release of a new film in the ‘whodunit’ category. When “The Little Things” hit theaters and HBO Max on Jan. 29, I watched the movie with high hopes. While I was a little let down by the film, I wouldn’t say it was an overall failure. 

The film kicks off its series of clichés with a young woman driving on the highway late at night who notices she is being stalked by another driver. She pulls over to a gas station, which is closed, leaving her to run away from the person who is now following her on foot. She luckily catches the attention of someone driving by and is able to escape the situation. The movie then switches gears to L.A. deputy sheriff Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington), who is called to collect evidence from a recent murder. Deacon tries to get much more involved in the case than a regular sheriff — as we later learn that he was demoted from his previous detective position.

While the beginning of the movie isn’t anything new or original, I’ll admit that it got my attention. It looked kind of like every crime show ever made, yet a murder mystery lover like myself can’t help themselves but to get sucked in.

Deacon accompanies Jimmy Baxter (Rami Malek), the lead detective on the case, to the scene of the murder. This is when Deacon begins to notice similarities between this case and the previous serial killer case that he was unable to solve. Baxter learns that Deacon’s obsession with this old case drove him to have a heart attack and divorce his wife, but ignores others’ warnings to leave him out of the case.

The film makes it very clear early on that Deacon’s past is relevant to the rest of the story. The mystery of his old case and dark past is one of the things that made me stick with the movie until the very end.

After another murder washes up, Deacon starts investigating a suspect named Albert Sparma (Jared Leto). Deacon follows Sparma around, and ultimately brings him in for questioning where he has a rather suspicious demeanor. Sparma taunts the two men, pushing Deacon to explode into a fit of rage. The two learn that Sparma has previously confessed to murders that he did not commit due to an obsession with crime, yet continue to believe that he is guilty. After an illegal search of his apartment, Baxter traps Sparma and demands to know the location of a missing girl who is connected to the string of murders. Sparma then takes Baxter to a deserted area where he claims to have buried the missing girl’s body, and Deacon trails closely behind.

One thing that I will fully give props to the movie on is its outstanding performances — especially that of Jared Leto. Sparma’s creepy and disturbing character comes to life as he plays games with the detectives, and enjoys them thinking that he is a killer. Without the three Oscar winning actors in the film, the characters would have gotten lost within the crazy plot.

Sparma prompts Baxter to dig several holes, and then ultimately claims that he has never actually killed anyone. Baxter still continues to dig while Sparma taunts him, but loses his cool and hits Sparma in the head with a shovel. Deacon arrives to see Sparma’s dead body, and a flashback reveals that he had mistakenly shot a survivor from his old murder case. Deacon instructs Baxter to bury the body while he cleans out Sparma’s apartment to fake a disappearance. Deacon returns in the morning to find that Baxter has not buried the body, but spent all night searching for the victim to make his actions feel justified. Later at his home, Baxter receives an envelope sent by Deacon with a red barrette — a piece of evidence that would have linked Sparma to the murders. Deacon is then seen burning everything he collected in the apartment, along with a brand new pack of barrettes that’s missing a red barrette.

This ending was one of the main conversations about the movie, as many were dissatisfied with the ambiguity of the killer’s identity. Although when it’s over, it almost feels like the movie led up to nothing, I thought this was kind of a unique approach to the end of one of these movies. For a plot that was unoriginal most of the way through, at least its conclusion was a little bit unique.

Despite the loose ends, the film did have some great qualities to it. If someone were to go into the movie only looking for a typical murder mystery, they will be unsatisfied. However, this movie may be perfect for those who enjoy being left with questions to think about once the movie is over. After all, it’s the small details that are truly the shining star of this movie — dare I say — the little things.