A Great Cast Cannot Save Director John Lee Hancock’s Sleazy Mixture of Forensics and Violence.
Where is #MeToo when we need it! Director John Lee Hancock’s “The Little Things” opens with a young woman driving alone on a lonely dark California desert highway (homage to Janet Leigh in Hitchcock’s Psycho, maybe) singing along to the B52s’ “Roam” on the car radio. It’s “Roam” specifically, so we, the audience, understand that the movie may be set in circa 1989/1990. However, we have no idea why the movie might be set in 1989/1990 and 128 minutes later, as the closing credits roll, we still have no idea. This, shall we say, careless attitude, is typical of the movie which, at its best, has no respect for its audience, and at its worst, is a sleazy piece of moviemaking masquerading as a whodunit.
Back to the young woman in question. She is menaced by another driver (homage to Spielberg’s “Duel”, maybe), stops the car at a deserted (of course) filling station, and is now chased on foot by the still unseen driver until she sees a truck coming. She flags it down just in time.
Or is it? CUT. To police officer Denzel Washington doing some small-town police action in what would appear to be somewhere in the Inland Empire, that vast desert and semi-desert running from the suburbs of east Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs and the other “Desert Cities”) and the Arizona border. Washington’s character lives in what can only be described as a shack with only his dog for companionship.
He is, however, quickly dispatched to LA for some reason, that’s also not entirely clear but is obviously a plot device so he can check out, and then become a partner with, an up-and-coming young buck played by fellow Oscar-winning actor Rami Malek. Malek is investigating a series of murders in the LA area that may be the work of a serial killer, and we are informed that Washington’s character, years earlier, was on the trail of the same killer in Northern California and that his obsession with the killer, and the pressure to break the case destroyed him. Once the film has set up the Washington-Malek dynamic, however, it self-destructs.
Yes, we are presented with two potential suspects, played by Jared Leto and in a smaller role Frederick Koehler, but the director is not interested in them as characters, and we quickly lose interest. There is no female character of note in this movie. We do, however, see lots and lots of female bodies in various stages of undress and decomposition. At the crime scene, on the forensic pathologist’s table, and in Washington’s character’s recurring flashbacks. These women have no past and no character to latch on to so after a while you begin to feel unclean.
The naked and decomposing female bodies pile up serving no purpose except to give a background to two police officers who, we slowly realize – everything in this movie is slow – have little or no moral standing. You come away from this film without any sense whatsoever, that a series of young women were t tortured and murdered. You feel sorry for many actresses who had to appear semi-naked, in non-speaking roles, in a mediocre movie. I had to take a shower afterward.