Director John Lee Hancock first wrote the script for this film back in 1990 and for reasons best known to himself has retained that time setting. He says he wanted to give it “more of a 70s feel.” The film is though not so much a period piece as an efficient but old fashioned serial killer movie featuring two cops forming a tricky alliance.
Denzel Washington plays Deke, a cop sent from up country to Los Angeles, where he was once a senior part of the force, to pick up a piece of evidence relating to a current case in his borough. Old memories surface when he becomes embroiled in a serial killer investigation, which relates to the unsolved case which caused him to leave Los Angeles five years earlier and which still haunts him.
His relationship with the officer in charge of the case Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), with whom he finds himself working, at first gets off to a sticky start. Old school cop and fast tracked youngster. Divorced loner and devoted family man. But they very quickly establish a working friendship.
The opening scenes of a young woman being pursued by a potential killer are taut and create a good tension, which the rest of film rarely achieves again. Washington is as always a strong presence, playing the sort of man you feel you’d want on your side in an emergency. Scenes showing the ghosts in his mind of the murdered girls from that old, unsolved case are also effective in showing his state of mind, though the constant returning to images of the naked, mutilated corpses of the young women enforces a stereotype of woman as victim which we could perhaps do without.
Malek creates a good contrast as the more wired younger cop, but Jared Leno as their main suspect – all long greasy hair, mocking and would be enigmatic statements and piercing eyes – has a bit of a cliché role to work with.
Despite good performances, including a strong supporting one from Michael Hyatt as Deke’s former pathologist colleague Flo, there is very little originality here, apart from the last 15 minutes or so, where we have a resolution, which is teasingly enigmatic but also unsatisfying. The question “what does the ending of this film mean” is already being asked on the internet.
I have however another question. Near the beginning of the film Deke says goodbye to his dog, saying he will be back that evening. He is away for days but the dog greets him happily on return. Who was feeding the dog?
“The Little Things” is available from participating digital retailers