Delicious Roast Beef

While The Little Things is a pure performance extravaganza, the script isn’t without merit. Much as Denzel Washington, Rami Malik, and Jared Leto bring memorable class to a derivative serial killer procedural, it’s Washington’s ambiguous character who deftly navigates the toll on a detective’s mind.

Joe Deacon (Washington) smiles a lot in this movie. Rarely does it indicate he’s happy. Deacon wears his career on his face, burying truth and the grisly images that linger in his mind. When asked about personal things, he smiles, casually shrugging off divorce and separation from his kids. When challenged by a police superior, he smiles. Staring down someone he’s certain is a killer? He smiles.

The Little Things plays with its audience, suggestive and ambiguous

At night, he cries. On the wall of his motel room, cadavers stare at him, women who, from the grave, ask for justice. It’s a change for Deacon who worked small town crime for years, trying to divest himself from big city realities. There’s a sense he refined his smile dealing with mundane, minuscule vandalism calls – anything to escape the gravity of seeing those young women on a slab.

Murder is brutal. Certainly, it is here in The Little Things. Blood splatters across floors, the victims propped up, throats slashed. The Little Things is also about another brutality, how those actions devastate those solving these mysteries. Rami Malek, who begins The Little Things arrogant and certain of his method, slowly unwinds as the killer continues his slaughter. It’s as if each murder takes an additional victim, parts of the psyche from those descending into instability.

The Little Things then pulls Jared Leto in, a pulp-esque creep obsessed with crime, police, and murder. He’s so unnerving as to be delightful, so unsettling as to be entertaining. An appliance repairman, Leto represents the callous expressions buried by the detectives chasing him. And, all the while, The Little Things plays with its audience, suggestive and ambiguous until the final images… solve nothing. Like its characters, The Little Things doesn’t let go, forcing viewers to consider multiple uncertainties when it’s seemingly over. Like with Joe Deacon though, there never actually is an end, or at least, not a concrete one.

Video

Delivering a dense, bold image, the digitally-lensed production scores in terms of dimensionality. Stellar black levels dominate the nighttime crime scenes, flushed with deepened, powerful shadows. Hefty lights break through, piercing the scenery. The visual range is enough to pass for low-grade HDR, if only the format were capable.

Set in the ’90s, a varying grain filter adds an aesthetic feel. While the encode struggles a little at times (notably an opening scene outside of a steakhouse), it’s generally lean, or even barely noticeable. That allows detail to flourish, resolution firm and satisfying. Close-ups click as pure HD, defined naturally.

While more grisly scenes take on an uncomfortable green/yellow sickly hue, color saturation blossoms. Patches on Denzel’s uniform pop with reds and blues. Elevated flesh tones don’t look unnatural, only attractively bright. Saturation is unusual for a crime procedural these days; most drift toward mood.

Audio

Pedestrian mixing in DTS-HD tracks what it needs to. Light ambiance adds slight direction inside cafes and diners. On the road, cars pass accurately to keep spacing intact.

An engine or two will roar past, adding a tiny jolt in the low-end. The score adds its own weight. Nominal stuff.

Extras

Four Shades of Blue explores Denzel’s various cop roles through the years and how they led to The Little Things, shy of 10-minutes. A general EPK goes behind-the-scenes for under eight minutes.

The Little Things
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

An actor-led murder procedural succeeds purely because of its cast, but The Little Things does explore the mental toll of detective work in an interesting way.

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