It's been a while since I've seen a new studio picture like The Little Things—a big, meaty, slickly made crime drama featuring a trio of Academy Award winners. That's partly due to COVID-19, which caused theaters to close 10 months ago and led the studios to postpone some of their biggest titles. But even if there weren't a pandemic and The Little Things had been widely released in theaters as planned, it might still have played like a relic from an earlier moviemaking decade.
That's exactly what it is. The '90s were something of a renaissance era for serial-killer movies, and the director, John Lee Hancock, wrote this script back in 1993, two years after The Silence of the Lambs and two years before David Fincher's notorious shocker Se7en.
It's interesting to think how The Little Things might have fit into the genre if it had been made back then. But for various reasons, even though Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood both considered directing it, the movie never got off the ground. It was revived only a few years ago, now with Hancock in the director's chair. He appears to have made few changes to his script, which is still set in the '90s, probably because so much of the story depends on pay phones.
Denzel Washington plays Joe Deacon, also known as Deke, a former Los Angeles detective who now works as a sheriff's deputy in Bakersfield. But on a work-related trip down to L.A., he meets up with his old friends on the force and gets pulled into a major case. His unlikely partner is a young hotshot named Jim Baxter, played by Rami Malek. In typical buddy-cop fashion, they get off on the wrong foot but soon settle into a comfortable groove, with Deke playing the grizzled mentor to Baxter's ambitious up-and-comer.