Denzel Washington plays Joe Deacon, a former Los Angeles homicide detective turned small-town deputy. When a minor evidence issue takes him back to Los Angeles, he crosses paths with a murder investigation led by Jim Baxter (Rami Malek). That killing looks a lot like a series of unsolved murders that led to Deacon nearly dying of a heart attack years earlier.
Deacon sticks around to help, and the trail eventually leads them to a creepy repairman (Jared Leto). Some circumstantial evidence points to the repairman's guilt, but there's also a chance that he's simply a weirdo crank (if this were set in 2020 instead of 1990, he would be an internet troll).
Even though the film is centered around a serial-killer mystery, The Little Things is not a thriller in the vein of Silence of the Lambs or Seven. There are a few suspenseful moments, but it's more of a character study. Washington gives a strong performance in the lead. Even in the moments when he flashes his movie-star smile and turns on the charm, Washington still radiates sadness here.
There are some slow stretches in the film's 129-minute running time and a few clichéd moments. But Hancock's script pulls off the difficult task of embracing ambiguity without feeling like a copout. It's worth a look.
*** Stars (Out of Four)