'The Little Things' is a stirring crime thriller that's saved by a WTF performance by Jared Leto

The Little Things 2 Nicola Goode Warner Bros
(L-R) Denzel Washington and Jared Leto in "The Little Things." Nicola Goode/Warner Bros.
  • A-listers Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto all shine in the movie.

  • However, it's Leto's outlandish performance that really saves the movie.

  • "The Little Things" is available on HBO Max and in theaters on Friday.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

If you are in the mood for a twisted crime movie that's going to keep you guessing throughout, then definitely check out "The Little Things."

Is it at the level of classics like "The French Connection" or "LA Confidential"? No. In fact, the first half of the movie fails at trying to be a mix between "Seven" and "Manhunter" with its gruesome crime scenes and the skilled detective character, who sees all the angles.

But just because it's not an instant classic, doesn't mean it's not worth watching. Honestly, what saves this movie is the wild performance by Jared Leto.

Writer-director John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side," "The Highwaymen") has delivered a strong warped tale that is aware of the trappings of the genre, by staying clear of obvious tells of a character's motives, and does well in staying away from them while featuring the incredible talents of Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and especially Leto. With the trio's involvement, Hancock pulls off things that would be laughable with lesser talents.

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(L-R) Denzel Washington and Rami Malek in "The Little Things." Nicola Goode/Warner Bros.

A serial killer is on the loose, and it's up to Denzel Washington and Rami Malek to track the person down

Set in 1990, the movie kicks off with an impressive tension-filled sequence as a young woman driving down a dark road begins to be harassed by another car that speeds around her. The car eventually stops until she passes, but speeds up on her again. Finally, the woman gets out of her car and tries to hide. We watch the man in the car pursuing her begin to track her down on foot. She finally flags down a truck to be saved.

The story then moves to Joe Deacon (Washington), a sheriff in Kern County, California, who is told he has to drive to Los Angeles to pick up a piece of evidence for an upcoming trial. Deacon does not look too pleased to have to go to L.A., and it's a mystery through the movie why that is.

But what we quickly realize, once he gets to the City of Angeles, that Deacon knows many of the detectives there and they are stupefied why he's back, too. Except the new hotshot detective Jim Baxter (Malek) realizes that this sheriff can be an asset in his search for a serial killer after Deacon tags along at a murder scene and impressively discovers something the killer did.

Eventually, Deacon and Baxter team up to track down the killer. However, Deacon has some skeletons in his closet that could jeopardize the whole case. But that's pushed aside when they find Albert Sparma (Leto), who seems to check all the boxes and becomes their main suspect.

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Jared Leto saves this movie. Nicola Goode/Warner Bros.

Why you should watch: Jared Leto gives a perfectly untamed performance

Now, let's get to Leto. Playing the pale, greasy long haired Sparma, the Oscar-winner once more shows how much he enjoys playing offbeat characters.

Though he doesn't show up in the movie until well past the halfway point, from that point on he saves the movie from being a disaster thanks to a WTF performance in which he seems to never blink and has hilariously twisted one-liners.

The highlight of the movie is in an interrogation room where Deacon and Baxter try to break Sparma into admitting he's the serial killer. However, it leads to Deacon losing his cool thanks to Sparma's unorthodox style.

Washington and Malek are fantastic in the scene, but it levels up thanks to Leto.

The bottom line: Fans of the crime genre will get a kick out of this one

Hancock delivers a workable plot and characters, but as we've already highlighted, it's the performances that really fuel this crime thriller. That's what will make this one appealing beyond fans of the genre.

However, the ones who enjoy guessing who is the murderer and has a stomach for blood and dead bodies will probably enjoy it the most.

"The Little Things" is available on HBO Max and opens in theaters on Friday.

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