Deputy Sheriff Joe "Deke" Deacon (Denzel Washington) joins forces with Sgt. Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) to search for a serial killer who's terrorising Los Angeles. As they track a suspect (Jared Leto), Baxter is unaware that the investigation is dredging up echoes of Deke's past, uncovering disturbing secrets that could threaten more than his case.
'The Little Things' is one of the few examples of a movie that feels like a remake, but isn't actually one. It's not the period setting - well, if '90s Los Angeles can be described in such terms - nor is it the neo-noir trappings, but rather the fact that all of it is so familiar and not in a good way. Think of police procedurals like 'Columbo', 'Kojak', even later models like 'Law & Order: SVU' or 'Criminal Minds'. They're able to be serialised because even though the characters are the same and the suspects change episode to episode, we're still engaged to figure out how or why it happened.
One of the big problems with 'The Little Things' is that while it sets itself up as this intriguing, old-school investigative journey, you're really just left with too many unanswered questions and not enough of a reason to stick around and find them out. Sure, there's a cast of heavy hitters involved here - all of them Oscar winners, all of them household names - but the fact that they were all drawn to this suggests none of them were there for the script, but rather for the opportunity to work together.
Indeed, it's kind of disappointing that a story this bland and familiar is what inspired them all to get involved when they're all capable of so much more. John Lee Hancock's script and direction is decidedly muted, and doesn't even take full advantage of its setting or its period setting, instead opting for vague references and one or two costume choices to keep it subtle. Normally, that feels like a wise choice, but here, it feels almost as if it was ignored rather than given consideration.
'The Little Things' isn't terrible, it's just not terribly good either. It's just a very hum-drum, middle-of-the-road crime drama that potters along, doesn't do much to challenge your expectations of a crime drama, sets up expectations, and pulls rugs with all of the vim and verve of a carpet-cleaning service. There never once feels like there's an ounce of excitement or joy in it, but rather just a grim rendering of work that's completed in time, under budget, with a minimum of fuss.
Netflix can knock these kind of crime dramas off the conveyor belt with ease and with far less starpower attached, so how is it that three Oscar winners came to make something this uneventful? That's the real mystery here.
'The Little Things' is available for premium rental from March 11th.