Denzel Washington’s Most Bizarre Movie Is Streaming Hit

Denzel Washington's movie The Little Things is in the top ten most-watched movies on HBO Max.

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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Denzel Washington has reached the kind of epic star status that upon hearing his name, everyone thinks of a different movie he headlined. Some might remember him in Malcolm X, for example, while others will think of Training Day or Crimson Tide. Pretty much nobody immediately thinks of the 2021 film The Little Things, but that hasn’t kept the movie from rising through the streaming ranks and making it to the top 10 on HBO Max for this week.

One reason this troubled Denzel Washington production has proven popular on streaming is likely because of its star-studded cast. It would be enough if the movie only had Washington (who is, without a doubt, one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history), but he is joined by famous faces like Jared Leto and Rami Malek. Those three round out the real headliners and the cast also includes great supporting actors ranging from Chris Bauer and Michael Hyatt to Terry Kinney and Natalia Morales.

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The movie’s premise is relatively simple: Denzel Washington and Rami Malek play two Los Angeles detectives investigating multiple murders during the 1990s. Jared Leto plays a creepy loner that they suspect might be the killer, but that’s not the biggest mystery here. The biggest mystery by far is how this bizarre film ever got made in the first place.

While the movie was finally released in 2021, development began way back in 1993. That was when the script was completed, but the movie landed in development hell after having a rotating series of names attached to it. It was originally written by John Lee Hancock with the hopes that Steven Spielberg would direct it, and several other big names were floated (including Clint Eastwood and Danny DeVito) before Hancock made the dubious decision to direct this Denzel Washington movie himself.

We say dubious because the movie ended up getting savaged by many critics. It currently has a 44% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though audiences liked it a bit more than critics did. Adding a bit of salt to the wound is that many critics pointed out that the root problem of the movie was the screenplay (complete with things like an annoying and cryptic ending) and praised Denzel Washington and the other actors for doing their best to make the movie watchable.

Out of the core trio of big names attached to the project, it was ultimately Jared Leto that got more praise than either Denzel Washington or Rami Malek. Thanks to his performance, Leto was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes and Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. He ultimately did not take either trophy home, but the sheer strength of his performance is one reason that The Little Things has a small legion of devoted fans.

If you want to join that legion, or maybe just see if the movie is as bad as the critics think it is, all you have to do is stream the film on HBO Max. Once you do, you’ll be able to evaluate if the performances elevate the script or if the script drags otherwise good actors down. And you might just be able to do us a solid by playing detective yourself and explaining what that weird ending was all about.