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The American director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, 2009) brings forth a crime “thriller” with no thrills and no fun. The plot? A serial killer is on the loose. That’s it. Seriously. With fewer twists than a landing strip, The Little Things plods along, almost dutifully presenting unlikely behaviors from its two-dimensional characters every 15 minutes.

Why does Hancock feel so comfortable asking us to make these leaps of faith? Because it’s a big-budget movie, and we should be grateful we only paid seven dollars for the privilege of beholding it? Because he’s got not one, not two, but three Oscar winners in the cast? Well, Jared Leto won for Dallas Buyers Club which, by now, most honest critics agree was a mediocre film. Leto’s performance in it was flamboyant but not great in hindsight. And Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody… what can be said? It was an absurd performance in the most laughable “serious” movie in decades. Is all this what made Hancock so sure of himself?

Along the way, the director strikes some hackneyed noir notes, like the stoic detective (two, in this case) who “has his own reasons” for obsessing over catching the killer. Hancock seems to subscribe to the idea that audiences love cliches and, having provided plenty of them, he needn’t furnish plot details or full characterizations. “The audience will fill in the blanks!” you can imagine him rejoicing. It’s a sour and cynical way to make movies, and the filmmakers ought to pay dearly for this $30-million, bona fide bomb. It all must have looked very good on paper, bless Denzel Washington’s heart.

the international CRITIQUE rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.