The Little Things: a unique crime thriller like no other


Photo courtesy of Hypebeast

Images of lead actors Denzel Washington (top left), Rami Malek (top right) and Jared Leto (bottom left) from the movie “The Little Things.”

Isaac Bostonmaer, Sports Editor

Warning! This article contains spoilers for the movie “The Little Things.” 


“The Little Things,” directed by John Lee Hancock and released Jan. 29, makes its mark as a unique crime movie starring award-winning actors, Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto. But, it is not a movie that everyone would enjoy as it builds suspense through a slow burning plot and leaves the audience with questions instead of answers.


Based on its synopsis and trailer, the audience may assume that the movie is your average detective-serial-killer storyline that is filled with action-packed scenes. Audiences expect a film where the detective spends most of the movie investigating clues until the killer is revealed in the final scenes. However, this movie is unique as it strays from the typical crime-film path. Instead of the expected crime movie plot, it is a slow-burn movie containing flashbacks, with the suspected killer found early on, without substantial evidence.


In the film, Deputy Sheriff Deke Beacon (Denzel Washington) and Detective Jimmy Baxter (Rami Malek) team up to track down a serial killer roaming Los Angeles and identify their top suspect, deranged Albert Sparma (Jared Leto). Although they strongly feel he is the killer, they have no evidence to convict him and spend the duration of the film trying to gather useful evidence, but always come up short. 


Towards the end of the movie, Sparma tells Detective Baxter where a body is buried. When handed a shovel and told to dig, Detective Baxter is taunted by Sparma, which pushes Baxter to his breaking point. Baxter strikes Sparma in the head with the shovel, killing him instantly and leaving Baxter and Deke to cover up the murder. The irony of law enforcement officers committing a murder instead of finding the murderer emphasizes the movie’s theme: nobody is truly good. 


Baxter needs to find proof that Sparma was the killer, so he has a clear conscience of killing a guilty person, not an innocent one. Deke has already experienced the guilt of killing someone innocent firsthand, as flashbacks reveal a parallel incident, and wants to prevent Baxter from enduring the pain and trauma that he has felt. In the final scenes, Deke mails a box that contains a red barrette, evidence that Sparma was the killer, to Baxter. Baxter thinks the man he killed is guilty. However, in the very last scene, the audience watches as Deke burns a package of store-bought barrettes, signifying that the killer is still out there. A crime movie that leaves the crimes unsolved and the protagonists acting like antagonists. Wow, right?


“The Little Thing” ultimately leaves the crime unsolved, leaving many viewers displeased, but this aspect of the film is a driving factor of its genius. Although many people dislike this type of strange ending, the slow build up to this ambiguous ending provides suspense and piques the viewer’s curiosity in a way that the majority of other crime thrillers fail to do. 


Another aspect of this movie that differs from other crime movies is the characters. In nearly every other crime movie, the detectives are shown as the best of people — patriotic heroes. However, in this film, their flaws are openly explored. Not only did they not solve the case, they both made terrible mistakes (their biggest one being killing innocent people) which sets them apart from the protagonists of other movies, thus blurring the lines of an antagonist and protagonist relationship.


Not only was the storyline and characters of the movie unique and brilliant, but the acting was top-notch as well. Leto provided a great portrayal of an absolute creeper who is both disgusting yet intriguing. Although Leto’s character is proved to be just a crime buff and not the actual killer, each scene including dialogue from Sparma is stated in an ominous and menacing tone, perfectly portraying a serial killer’s persona. Washington and Malek also put on a great performance as they play the roles of two officers with great chemistry. Throughout the film, the audience views the relationship between the two officers develop into a cherished friendship. Even if the movie’s storyline and genre do not attract you, the acting alone will surely hold viewers’ attention.


The Little Things” is a must-watch for viewers who do not mind slow-burn movies and a cliff-hanger ending. I recommend you watch the movie and interpret for yourself if the detectives’ actions were justified or perhaps who the killer really is.

The Little Things” is currently streamable on HBO Max, but it will be available for rent or purchase on other platforms soon.