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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Life + Arts

The Cougar Reviews: ‘The Little Things’ plot lacks originality


Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Recently released on HBO Max, director and writer John Lee Hancock’s “The Little Things” manages to combine the most familiar character attributes of Rami Malek, Jared Leto and Denzel Washington with a plot that is less interesting than most of the projects that these heavy-hitters have worked on in the past.

The story follows Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon, played by Washington, as he returns to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department where he worked for several years before abruptly leaving. 

His mission is simple, he is tasked with retrieving evidence. It’s an assignment considered elementary for someone who has put in as much time as Deacon.

In Los Angeles, Deacon crosses paths with the guy who replaced him, Detective Jimmy Baxter, played by Malek. Baxter has heard of Deacon and is immediately intrigued by the old man who he seems to know both a little and a lot about. 

Malek’s character is supposedly the up-and-coming hot-shot around LA, but Hancock doesn’t do a good enough job of showing us why. The first time we see Baxter, he’s getting grilled by the local press for his failure to capture the serial killer currently running around the community.

When Deacon accompanies Baxter to the scene of a recent murder, things start to pick up rather quickly and Baxter subtly looks to Deacon for help putting the pieces of the puzzle together. 

What we see in Washington’s character from that point on is what connects Deacon to other characters portrayed by the Hollywood veteran, living in the past. 

Deacon has obviously been through a lot, and even though he was always good at his job, the few mistakes he made were costly to him and his loved ones.

When opportunity presents itself, Deacon has no problem returning to the lifestyle that ruined him many years prior. His instincts and skills are still present, and within a matter of hours, they are awakened.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Said opportunity presents itself when Deacon notices similarities between Baxter’s case and one that he worked on a while back. 

They team up, of course, and start kicking ass and taking names, sort of. They actually fumble a lot and eventually the FBI is called in to take over, leaving Baxter and Deacon only a few days to crack the case. 

Their lead suspect is Albert Sparma, played by Leto, who’s a middle-aged crime-enthusiast that works down the street from Baxter’s crime scene. 

Sparma fits the description of a neighborhood creep more than a murderer, but like most buddy-cop stories, once two detectives have their guy, he’s their guy.

Leto has some nice and back-and-forth banter with both Washington and Malek, and the scenes where their clever game of cat and mouse is boldly on display are the most enjoyable.

It wouldn’t be a movie about police officers attempting to solve a murder for their own personal objectives without a scene where they break and enter. This happens and the plot twist that accompanies it is also one of the film’s high points. 

Still, multiple plot twists in the second half of the movie seem to serve as a cover for much of a monotonous story we’ve all seen before. 

Though it’s filled with fine acting and acceptable pacing (and Michael Hyatt who we all certainly love), “The Little Things” lacks originality, which is hard to do in an era where reusing story and plot is so acceptable.

The ending is a fun way to conclude a slightly confusing ride on the HBO Max-coaster, but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t watched the film. 

The challenging part is getting to the ending, but if you have a few hours to attempt pushing through, go for it. If not, that’s ok too. 

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