The Little Things, a procedural serial killer film in the vein of Seven and The Silence of the Lambs, boasts one of the most impressive headline casts in recent memory, with Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto – all Academy Award winners – sharing top billing.

Washington plays Joe, a former homicide detective turned pencil-pushing county deputy who is sent to LA with the simple task of retrieving documented evidence for an upcoming criminal hearing. His arrival is met with hostility and it’s apparent that he and the branch have a troubled history.

Malik is Jim, the current homicide hotshot who recognises Joe’s knack for solving crimes and invites him to tag along while hunting an active serial killer.

And then there’s Leto as Albert, a creepy and eccentric character who may or may not be their killer, and who derives great pleasure from toying with them.

The Little Things is immediately compelling. An opening sequence that recalls the intensity of David Fincher’s Zodiac establishes a very particular tone for the film. With its nineties’ setting and almost monochrome colour-grading, the aesthetic is immediately striking, and as the first act unfolds it promises a taut and chilling film.

Washington, Malek and Leto are Oscar winners for a reason, and they are all excellent here. Each of them plays to their brand – Washington the authority figure, Malek the vacant type, and Leto the weirdo. Collectively the casting works well, with Leto turning the creep factor up to 11. The ambiguity of his character is effectively teased with perfectly measured menace and unpredictability, and while he does dance close to the fringes of caricature at times, he never quite steps over the edge.

With three prestigious lead actors on the bill it’s easy to overlook the decent supporting cast; familiar faces like Chris Bauer (True Blood), Michael Hyatt (Ray Donovan) and Terry Kinney (Oz) add gravity to the story and help cushion the space between the three prominent leads. Movie buffs may also relish the presence of Jason James Richtor, the kid from the Free Willy movies, in the role of a homicide detective.

Serial killer tales are enjoying something of a revival (not that they ever really went away) thanks to the popularity of TV shows like Mindhunter and the new Silence of the Lambs sequel series, Clarice. With its distinct production design and cracking cast, The Little Things is a fine example; avid fans of the genre can look forward to a grim and gripping experience.

In cinemas: February 18, 2021
Starring: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto
Directed by: John Lee Hancock