Movie review: ‘The Little Things’

Posted 2/5/21

Denzel Washington and Rami Malek star in “The Little Things,” an excellent and satisfying mystery adventure about serial killings.

In October 1990, a young woman is being chased along …

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Movie review: ‘The Little Things’

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Denzel Washington and Rami Malek star in “The Little Things,” an excellent and satisfying mystery adventure about serial killings.

In October 1990, a young woman is being chased along a lonely California road late at night. She manages to elude him by flagging down a truck. Five years later, Joe “Deke” Deacon (Washington), a Kern County deputy sheriff, is ordered to pick up a pair of blood-stained boots that may link them to a serial killer from further south and bring them to Los Angeles.

It turns out Deke was a great detective who left under a cloud. Some people are nervous to see him, others are thrilled. The chief (Terry Kinney) wants him gone by morning.

Asked to stay overnight, he meets the new lead detective, Jim Baxter (Malek). Baxter takes Deke to the latest crime scene.

After two months and four victims, there is still no suspect. The talented and tormented Deke talks to the corpses in the morgue, testing his theories out on those who can’t talk back, as the coroner, Flo Dunigan (Michael Hyatt), Deke’s old friend and former colleague, watches with familiarity.

“How do you ever get used to it,” the landlady (Lee Garlington) asks Deke at the crime scene.

“Used to what?”

“The smell?”

“If you’re lucky, you never get used to it.”

As Baxter says goodnight to his children, Deke is in a seedy hotel in bed, his flashlight trained on pictures and files of the dead women as he thinks. “It’s never over,” he whispers.

Deke takes vacation days to work on the case. Details are revealed slowly and meticulously.

“We ran him out of here five years ago,” the chief tells Baxter.  “He worked a case so hard that he got a heart attack. Suspension, divorce, and triple bypass in six months. He’s a train wreck.”

Baxter ignores all warnings to stay clear. He solicits Deke’s help.

“How does a guy with the best clearance rate in the department go for 15 years without a promotion?” Baxter asks Deke.

“Maybe I didn’t go to the right church.”

“Why are you trying to solve a 5-year-old case that everyone’s forgotten about?” Baxter asks without getting an answer.

“It’s the little things that are important,” Deke tells him, as they go over minute details. It’s the little things that get you caught.”

Everything feels awkward, including a brief meeting with Deke’s ex-wife, Marsha (Judith Scott). With a great cast that includes Jared Leto, the film is beautifully written and directed in an understated way by John Lee Hancock.

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