Why are 3 Oscar winners not enough to save this fledgling film?

On the face of it, The Little Things has all the pieces it needs to be good. Three stellar actors. Beautiful cinematography. An experienced writer/director who made some of my favorite films of the last decade like The Blind Side and The Founder (if you haven’t seen The Founder you need to; it’s a criminally underrated movie). Despite all these elements, the final product comes out as a disappointment. It commits the cardinal sin of filmmaking: It’s incredibly boring. There’s nothing worse than a boring movie. At least with hilariously bad films , you have something to make fun of. The Little Things promised a thrilling crime story and delivered 2 hours of what was probably one of the most sleep-inducing movies watching experiences I’ve had in a long time.

Denzel Washington stars as Joe Deacon, a deputy sheriff that becomes obsessed with the recent string of killings in his old hometown. His hunt leads him to cross paths with Jimmy Baxter, a younger detective assigned to the case played by Rami Malek. They soon find their possible suspect, a strange man named Albert (Jared Leto), who they both feel is the suspect they’re looking for. Now all they need is proof.

As with most bad movies, the major problems stem from the script. The Little Things takes a story that’s already been done many times and never once dares to add anything new to it. The film is generic from start to finish. It clearly wants to be a tense murder mystery with deep themes similar to Seven. But it never achieves either the gritty crime story atmosphere nor does it land its attempts at philosophical themes.

The characters are as generic as they come. Denzel is the older cop whose seen it all. Rami Malek is the new hotshot that thinks he knows everything. Jared Leto is the creepy suspect that could be the culprit or could just be a weirdo. Stop me if you’ve seen all this before. The movie attempts at tackling big themes all fall completely flat. Denzel’s monologues about God, life, and morality come off more cheesy than thought-provoking. The result is a movie that seems more interested in issuing moral platitudes than actually telling a good story.

In movies with a script this lacking, the only hope is for the actors' performances to be good enough to bring it to life and unfortunately none of the three Oscar winners are up to the task. Denzel Washington is usually great, but the character he’s playing just isn’t giving him anything interesting to play with. Leto’s performance starts intriguing and then quickly begins to lose its mystique. His dead behind the eyes stare that was effectively unnerving in his first few scenes becomes laughably over the top as the film goes on. And Malek’s performance just falls completely flat. He simply doesn’t have the charisma to pull off the cool hotshot persona his character is supposed to have. He’s far and away the worst of the three. These are all actors who we’ve seen in great roles before, so I won’t place the blame solely at their feet. The script wasn’t doing them any favors, and the director clearly didn’t have a handle on how to make these poorly written characters pop.

It’s a shame because the skeleton of a good story is here; it just needed a lot more work. And I mean a whole lot more. As it stands, The Little Things has nothing special about it. It’s long, boring, and doesn’t even come close to living up to the Oscar-worthy expectations it clearly set for itself. It’s doing nothing new, and all of its twists and turns (or at least attempts at them) have been done far better in other places. If you’re looking for a compelling crime thriller, you’d be better off scrolling through Netflix than watching The Little Things.

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