The Little Things Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

United States, early 1990s. Joe Deacon, nicknamed Dickie (Denzel Washington), serves as a sheriff’s deputy in the outback of Kern County, in the southern part of the California Valley. Deacon lives in a wretched house, more like a barn, drives an old wreck.

At some point, the sheriff sends Joe to Los Angeles to collect certain physical evidence: they can help convict a guy they suspect of a crime.

At the LAPD, Deacon intends to collect the evidence and return to his county immediately, but the vault clerk says he cannot collect it without the personal signature of Homicide Squad leader Captain Carl Farris (Terry Kinney).

Joe, for some reason, does not really want to meet with Farris, but he has nowhere to go: without the captain’s signature, he will not complete the task of his boss.

Well, gradually, from conversations and flashbacks, it turns out that a few years ago, Deacon was the best detective in the Homicide Department of this section: he had the highest clearance rate. However, during the conduct of another case, something went wrong, well, as a result, Joe got a heart attack, from which he recovered for a long time, after that Deacon divorced his wife and left Los Angeles for Kern County to work there as an ordinary patrolman, deputy sheriff .

Now in Joe’s place in the Homicide Department is a promising young detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), whom Captain Farris greatly appreciates. And now Jim Baxter is facing a very difficult task: over the past two months, four mysterious murders of young girls have been committed on the territory of the station, the style of the murders is very similar, that is, a serial killer is clearly operating here, and Jim still does not have a single suspect. A few years ago, Joe Deacon worked on very similar murders, and then he could not find the perpetrator.

Baxter, having learned that the legendary Joe Deacon has appeared in their station, invites the former detective to join his investigation: what if his experience in these cases will help in some way? Deacon, who is very oppressed by the fact that he then did not succeed, takes a few days from his boss at his own expense and begins to work with Baxter.


The script for this film was written by aspiring screenwriter John Lee Hancock at the very beginning of the nineties, even before the release of the famous Fincher film “Seven”, with which, among other things, this picture will inevitably be compared. The script was intended for Steven Spielberg, but Steven, having read the script, said that he was not ready to stage such a film.

As a result, the script lay on the shelf for almost thirty years, and since John Lee Hancock during this time became quite a successful director himself – “The Blind Side”, “Saving Mr. Banks”, “The Founder”, “Chasing Bonnie and Clyde”, ” Paradise Lost – then he decided to put this film according to his script.

Time of action – the beginning of the nineties – Hancock decided not to change, so the audience is immersed in Los Angeles in the early nineties: no mobile phones, huge American cars, street pay phones, smoky bars and other relevant paraphernalia.

At first, it seems that in the joint investigation between Baxter and Deacon, a fairly traditional card “young and daring against old and wise” will be played out, especially since their first meeting begins with a small conflict: Deacon’s wreck blocked the exit of Baxter’s cool car from the parking lot.

However, there are no further conflicts. Deacon understands that Baxter is a good detective who is just as passionate about his job as he himself was sick at one time, and he helps a young colleague, and most importantly, what happens between them is constant conversations during trips or surveillance from a parked car on the streets of Los Angeles at night: about the nature of evil, about the responsibility of the servants of the law, about how to deal with murderers if you know for sure that it is a murderer, but do not have enough evidence to convict him.

For a certain audience, this causes a feeling of disappointment, because they went to a detective thriller, and here there are very few purely detective actions and the film as a result turns out to be more of a psychological thriller than a detective. And especially the shift into this genre is enhanced when Jared Leto’s character appears on the stage – auto mechanic Albert Sparma, who is pointed to by various circumstantial evidence, but there is no convincing evidence of his involvement.

And almost the entire second half of the film is a subtle psychological game of Albert Sparma with two partners and, above all, with Baxter. And this part, of course, evokes obvious analogies with the film “Seven” by David Fincher, where the very smart and calculating criminal John Doe (Kevin Spacey) plays cat and mouse with the old and young detectives William Somerset and David Mills (Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt). ).

But, however, I note that here is still a slightly different story, despite a certain similarity. Yes, Albert Sparma also plays cat and mouse with Baxter and Deacon, and he is also constantly ahead of them by one or two moves, but in the movie “Seven” it was absolutely known that John Doe was the culprit: he himself in he confessed to this and he forced the detectives to make a deal with him – it was part of his diabolical plan.

With Albert Sparma, things are somewhat different. He did not confess to anything, he denies the accusations, he knows that, in fact, he has nothing to show and that they cannot detain him, and at the same time he constantly throws some hints to the police that can be interpreted as half-confessions from the series “Well, what are you going to do to me now? And he frankly mocks his partners, playing some kind of his perverted game. But here’s what he’s all leading to, why Sparma provokes Baxter – it’s completely incomprehensible.

There is no doubt that Sparma is a freak psychopath. Definitely a freak psychopath. But what does he need, what does he lead to? Is he really a killer and likes to lead detectives by the nose, while walking on very thin ice, or is he a psychopath, but not a killer, and only plays on these murders to mock the police? And that’s the most interesting part of this movie.

Another point that disappoints many viewers is that, as one viewer wrote in a review, the film’s ending leaves more questions than answers. Well, yes, there is some element here – I emphasize, only element – of the so-called open ending, and the audience, as a rule, does not like this: they need to know if the killer is a gardener or a butler? And if, for some reason, clear answers were not received in the finale (as, for example, in Fincher’s Zodiac, where the killer also played cat and mouse with the police, and the police didn’t even have a suspect), then a certain Some viewers are unhappy with this outcome.

Personally, I didn’t, I liked this film, and I was quite satisfied with the ending: it’s not Hollywood cool, because it’s not straightforward and makes the viewer interpret for himself what he saw here. (To avoid spoilers, we will talk about this at the end of the review.)

The film is staged great – in the style of a kind of neo-noir of the nineties, and in terms of the level of penetration into the corresponding era, it may even seem that you are really watching a film from the early nineties. Neon signs (most of the action takes place in the evening or at night), hefty American “crocodile” cars from the nineties, framing in which the main thing stands out and the irrelevant details seem to be hidden (David Fincher is such a great master) – it’s all well immersed in the appropriate atmosphere of the picture.

If we talk about the two main characters of the picture, then of the two it is difficult to name the central figure. They are both completely identical. Deacon with a tragedy that he experienced a few years ago, Baxter, for whom this investigation becomes a very personal matter, although, unlike Deacon, he even has much to lose: Baxter has a wife and two daughters.

Two-Oscar winner Denzel Washington plays his character very reservedly, in halftones. Of course, it is rare in any films that Denzel portrayed exalted heroes, but here Deacon is completely extinct. He survived a severe tragedy that oppresses him, he has no future, he just lives out his life, and inside he completely burns out from the fact that he could not catch that serial killer. Therefore, it is as if he is ignited during this investigation, because this can help him remove some stone from his soul. But whether it really helps or not is completely unknown.

Oscar-winner Rami Malek has Jim Baxter at first as a kind of dude, but he is a very purposeful, passionate person, and it is clear how much this investigation touches him. In addition, he has to hurry very much: the captain said that the FBI is interested in this story, so if Baxter does not show any leads in the near future, then the case will be transferred to the FBI and this will become a stain on Jim’s career. But Baxter is not concerned about the spot on his career, he needs to find the killer, and Rami Malek, in my opinion, well showed a certain obsession with his character.

With the character of Jared Leto (the actor also has an Oscar for a really great role in Dallas Buyers Club) – the same car mechanic Albert Sparma who becomes a suspect – everything is not so simple. On the one hand, the character turned out to be more than impressive: a clear psycho with his inner cockroaches, about whom everything is decidedly incomprehensible – is he really a scumbag killer or is he just playing such a game with the police. Each appearance of Sparma certainly stole the stage from Malek and Washington immediately. And Jared played it just fine!

However, on the other hand, a purely external effect of how this Sparma was portrayed works here: long “Christian” hair, frightening black eyes, a very strange and also slightly frightening gait. This, of course, made a very strong impression, however, in my opinion, it turned out to be a slightly comic Joker (especially since Leto played this Joker in Suicide Squad) rather than a realistic crazy freak, but, by the way, in real life there are so many freaks out there, so maybe we’re picking on nothing. And, I repeat, it was played very well, the character turned out to be very bright, well, Leto received a Golden Globe nomination for him.

What is the result? I like it. Not without reservations, but, of course, I liked it, and I’m glad I saw this film. Will you like it? Judging by the low (for such a film) rating on IMDB, some viewers were disappointed with what I wrote about above. But as for me, it turned out even better than if it were an ordinary detective thriller.

PS Well, let’s talk a little about the ending under the spoiler – as I see it.

Why did Baxter even go with Sparma, who kind of offered to show the victim’s body? Did he really not understand that Sparma would not show him anything, because if he did, then the police would have iron proof?

Surely he understood. And I think that he went just out of desperation: he saw that they were still unable to dig up anything on Sparma, although circumstantial evidence pointed to him, and Sparma himself clearly teased them, and, apparently, he went with Sparma in order to so that Sparma, having played too much, somehow betrayed himself.

The most important question: Sparma – a killer or not? The answer here is quite unambiguous – but who the hell knows. We don’t have an answer. If Deacon really found a red hairpin in his house, then this would be significant evidence. But we know that he only sent it to Baxter to calm him down. The hairpin was not actually there, so we don’t know if Sparma was the killer or not. Crazy? Yes, definitely. Personality deeply unpleasant and frightening? Oh sure. Killer? And we don’t know.

Why was Sparma so obviously, already completely on the verge of trolling Baxter? Didn’t he realize that the mention of Baxter’s wife and daughters would send him into a wild rage and he could become completely out of control?

So he’s a psycho! He liked to play with Baxter, he believed that Baxter, as a policeman, would not dare to lay a finger on him, so he went further and further in his trolling, as if feeling for the moment at which Baxter would break. It was such a game. Well, that’s the kind of entertainment a person has.

This is how I explained it to myself.

If you have other versions – speak out, pliz, in the comments, just don’t forget to put explicit spoilers under the appropriate tag (there is also a corresponding button: they wrote, highlighted, clicked the “Spoiler” button).

The Devil is in the Details /
The Little Things movie meaning

Producer: John Lee Hancock

Cast: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Christopher Bauer, Michael Hyatt, Terry Kinney, Natalie Morales, Isabelle Arraisa, Joris Jarsky, Glenn Morshower

Detective thriller, USA, 2021, 128 min.

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