THE LITTLE THINGS – Review by Susan Granger

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The disastrous disappointment of John Lee Hancock’s neo-noir serial killer procedural demonstrates how a compelling script is still the most important element – even with three A-list, Oscar-winning actors.

Set in 1990 in California, the plot follows police officers tracking Albert Sarma (Jared Leto), a creepy, soft-spoken electrical repairman, a self-confessed “crime buff,” who murders young women, shrewdly leaving no weapon, evidence or witnesses, taunting law enforcement’s ineptitude.

The sinister prologue shows him pursuing a female driver on an empty freeway at night as she tries in vain to seek help at a closed gas station – accompanied by Thomas Newman’s ominous score.

Stoic Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) is an aging deputy in the Kern County sheriff’s department; he has an enigmatic backstory, including a heart attack, that supposedly explains why he’s tormented by a cold case from the past.

Recognizing Deke’s instincts and wisdom, ambitious hot-shot LAPD detective Jimmy Baxter (Rami Malek) enlists him to help solve this perplexing homicide puzzle, even if that involves bending the rules a bit.

That’s alluded to in a cryptic scene with the coroner (Michael Hyatt) who refers to a previous disturbing encounter the morgue with Deke. And there’s the predictable exchange in which Deke reminds Jimmy that it’s “the little things” that matter: “It’s the little things that rip you apart. It’s the little things that get you caught.”

So you have odd-couple cops after an elusive psychotic killer – and nary a distinguishable female character within camera range.

Perhaps its derivative datedness can be attributed to John Lee Hancock’s having written the screenplay almost 30 years ago (1993) after completing his work on Clint Eastwood’s “A Perfect World.” In the intervening years, Eastwood, along with Steven Spielberg, Warren Beatty and Danny De Vito, expressed interest in directing. Right now, however, it’s past its prime.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Little Things” is a floundering, formulaic 4, streaming on HBO Max.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.