Tag Archives: HBO Max

The Little Things

Deke (Denzel Washington) is in L.A. from up north on some menial task, evidence transport or some such. He used to be on the force here, but no longer; his former colleagues don’t have great things to say about him, and they’re not shy about filling in the new guy, Baxter (Rami Malek) on all the ways Deke was found wanting. Mainly that he worked a case too hard, was so obsessed that he jeopardized his career, failed his marriage, and risked his health. Baxter, however, has some sympathy for Deke. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s a lot like him. He’s about to get a case that will haunt him in a very familiar way, and as Deke says – these are the ones that stay with you.

Deke has the opportunity to say this to Baxter because for some reason Deke sticks around to work the case with him. Totally unsanctioned of course – the dude has to sneakily take vacation from his real job to pursue this one totally against the rules. And Baxter lets him. Together they pursue an elusive serial killer, which leads them straight to Jared Leto. I mean, to Sparma, played by Jared Leto. And Jared Leto’s long greasy hair, distinguished gut, and totally unnecessary hitch in his giddyup – he literally walks around like he just got off an 8 hour horse ride over very rough terrain, only this is L.A. and even creeps like Sparma have a car. Anyway, Deke and Baxter agree that this guy is a Super Creep and that he’s guilty by virtue of just being so obviously a Super Creep. And honestly, Jared Leto so devotedly gives this guy every serial killer accessory he can think of that we openly despise him too, and don’t care much whether or not he’s actually guilty.

Anyway, as Deke likes to say, it’s the little things that add up, which is ironic because director John Lee Hancock, who also wrote those words, can’t even get the big things right. Hancock started writing this movie 30 years ago and it feels like any number of movies that have come out since, many of them much better, and all of them more original by default. But even if it wasn’t overly familiar, it would still lack suspense, or indeed any momentum. It’s a lot of moping around. You’ve perhaps come to see a trio of ostensibly talented Oscar-winning actors doing their thing but what you get is a solid performance by Denzel trapped in a shitty movie that has one of the most disappointing, anticlimactic third acts in cinematic history. The Little Things is available to stream, but why would you? This movie fails to satisfy in any way. You’ve got no places to go, no people to see, but you still have your dignity, and even during lockdown, time is precious.

Sundance 2021: Judas and the Black Messiah

This is the true story of Fred Hampton, young Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his ultimate betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal.

William, or Bill (LaKeith Stanfield), is a low-level hustler and car thief who gets caught by the wrong guy at the wrong time. FBI agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemmons) is looking for a way to impress his boss, J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen), and Bill is just the kind of guy he could use. Dangling his crimes and the threat of life in prison, Roy will be able to manipulate Bill into doing just about anything, and the thing at the top of everyone’s list these days is increasingly noisy Fred Hampton and his Black Panther Party in Chicago. Fred (Daniel Kaluuya) is agitating for things like equality and education, which of course infuriates the institution. How dare he? Worse still, Fred is so charismatic and galvanizing that he’s actually uniting not just his own party, but members of different and sometimes adversary groups that share, at their core, some common ground. Roy will have Bill infiltrate the Black Panther Party to get close to Fred.

As FBI informant, Bill will eventually betray Fred, ultimately leading to his assassination, but Shaka King’s brilliant film tells the tale of not one but two lives ruined by the FBI and its machinations. Bill is a victim too, and the film finds empathy for a man even its title suggests is a villain.

Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield both had break out performances in Jordan Peele’s Get Out and both have chosen extremely well and wisely since, their careers pointed ever upward. How lovely to see them reunited here, and to such splendid effect. Kaluuya gives off such a strong, committed, and lyrical vibe that I must constantly remind myself that Hampton was but 21 years old when he died. Stanfield suffers quietly, his internal conflict not verbally expressed but no less apparent for it.

It can be difficult for an historic thriller to capture an authentic sense of excitement, but Shaka King’s perspective brings new urgency to the story, making for a compelling, electrifying watch, ready to pounce.