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The Little Things
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr John Lee Hancock
prd Mark Johnson, John Lee Hancock
with Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Chris Bauer, Michael Hyatt, Terry Kinney, Natalie Morales, Isabel Arraiza, Joris Jarsky, Glen Morshower, Sofia Vassilieva, Jason James Richter
release US 29.Jan.21,
21/US Warner 2h08
Is it streaming?
This procedural police thriller centres on an eccentric veteran who can't help but notice the little things others overlook in a crime scene, and there's actually an early reference to Colombo. Writer-director John Lee Hancock may over-egg the masculinity, and the case at hand isn't terribly original, but the film has a rough charm thanks to a far above average cast making the most of the gristly dialog.
In 1990, rural California cop Deke (Washington) is sent to Los Angeles to collect evidence for an ongoing case, reconnecting with his former detective colleagues there. His old pal Sal (Bauer) is now working with young hotshot Jimmy (Malek) to catch a horrific serial killer. The cast reminds Deke of a murder back home five years ago, so he decides to stick around and conduct his own investigation. This makes Jimmy and his chief (Kinney) a bit nervous. Then as the slimy Albert (Leto) becomes a prime suspect, the case takes several unnerving turns.
The banter between Deke and Jimmy is enjoyably spiky, as each continually weighs up the other. Jimmy has a begrudging curiosity about the respected veteran, while Deke dismisses Jimmy's swagger. But their conversations become increasingly deep, which makes the film an involving study in the contrast between two men who, of course, are far more alike than they realise. Meanwhile, the film is produced to a very high standard, keeping its focus right where it needs to be, even as Hancock knowingly deploys pretty much every cliche of the genre.
Washington has such magnetic presence that he essentially glues the entire movie together with sheer force of will. His offbeat obsession to detail is engaging, as are his wry throwaway lines and brittle interaction with everyone he meets. Opposite him, Malek adeptly holds his own with a magnetic performance that's more sympathetic than expected. And the always mesmerising Leto's casting makes it clear that, after he reveals his arch dirtbag character about halfway in, something juicy is coming.
The central plot has all of the usual beats, so it never feels quite as harrowing, shocking or twisty as these thrillers need to be. But the exploration of cop culture is riveting and provocative, especially as it plays out in the prickly interaction between Washington and Malek. And then Leto turns up to chomp on whatever scenery is remaining in the intriguingly quirky final act. And that's when Hancock quietly shows that he has something far more intriguing to reveal than whodunit.
R E A D E R R E V I E W STerry T, New York: I loved this movie. Most of the critics picked on it, but it was very suspenseful and moving. I think you should have people who actually pay to see movies as critics. Not really. (Feb.21)
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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