Writer-Director John Lee Hancock’s the little things arrives on Blu-ray after a brief theatrical and 30-day run on HBO Max. Unfortunately, it is a stale film so full of cliches and contrivances that even its Oscar-winning cast can’t save it from itself.
The Production: 2/5
Kern County deputy Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) is sent down to Los Angeles to retrieve a crucial piece of evidence for an upcoming trial. While waiting for the evidence to be retrieved, he visits some of his former co-workers at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office, where Deke was a top-rate detective before his life completely fell apart (including a heart attack, divorce, and losing as high-profile serial murder case). Deke’s replacement, Detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), is currently investigating a similar series of murders, and the two ultimately begin helping each other out narrowing down the suspects to an anti-social loner and appliance repair man Albert Sparma (Jared Leto). Sparma is a true-crime fan, and is enjoying taunting the police in their investigation, perhaps a bit too much.
The script for the little things was originally written in 1993 by John Lee Hancock as a project for Steven Spielberg, who ultimately passed on the film due to its darker themes (and instead moved forward with Schindler’s List). The script was then passed around Hollywood, with Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty, and Danny DeVito as some of the directors attached at some point, with Hancock eventually deciding to direct the film himself after success with the films The Founder, Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side, and The Rookie. There is no arguing that Denzel Washington really elevates the role of Joe Deacon in what could have been just another cop reconciling with demons from his past. Malek is very good, playing what is essentially a younger version of Deke who is about to go through the same experiences. Leto manages to lose himself in the role, but almost does so by overplaying it (something the actor has been guilty of in other roles, particularly as The Joker in Suicide Squad). One of the movie’s main problems are its familiarity with other serial killer movies – the opening sequence is almost lifted verbatim from Silence of the Lambs; both detectives talk themselves through what the killer was likely thinking while walking the crime scene (Manhunter); and the beginning of the third act feels too much like David Fincher’s Se7en. And it is that third act, with its twist out of nowhere, that ultimately and completely derails the film. Up to that point, the performances by both Washington and Malek kept this reviewer at least somewhat interested in the outcome, but Hancock’s twist is so out of left field that it just could not rebound from it.
3D Rating: NA
the little things was captured digitally at 8K resolution using Panavision Millenium and Red Weapon Monstro cameras, then completed as a 4K digital intermediate in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For whatever reason, despite streaming on HBO Max in 4K with Dolby Vision HDR and available as a 4K digital stream with HDR on services like Vudu, Apple TV, etc., the highest resolution that Warner is releasing the film on physical media is on Blu-ray. That is not to say that the AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is not worth watching – it’s actually an excellent-looking Blu-ray release. This is a relatively dark film (in more ways than one), and handles its black levels with quite literally no visible crushing whatsoever. Shadow detail here is excellent. There are also no noticeable compression artifacts, with overall detail remaining strong. Colors are intentionally muted but natural.
Like the video, the 4K streams include a Dolby Atmos track that is absent here on the Blu-ray release, which is odd for Warner (they have been one of the few studios that have almost always included an Atmos option on Blu-ray if available). Included on the release is a very good DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that still manages to provide an eerie atmosphere, with good LFE response, very good surround presence, and clear and understandable dialogue. At least the Apple TV app will let me watch my included digital HD copy with Dolby Atmos (which I sampled prior to writing this review and really does make a BIG difference).
Special Features: 1.5/5
The Little Things – Four Shades of Blue (1080p; 9:22): A look at four films from the Warner Bros. catalog where Denzel Washington played a police officer – Ricochet, Fallen, Training Day and the little things.
A Contrast in Styles (1080p; 7:54): A behind the scenes look at the film, featuring interviews with writer-director John Lee Hancock, producer Mark Johnson, and actors Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital HD copy on Movies Anywhere.
Despite terrific performances by its three leads, the little things can’t overcome its familiarity and cliches heavily borrowed from other serial killer mysteries and a third act that tries to be clever but fails miserably.
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