The Controversy Over Denzel Washington's New Film Is Growing

Denzel Washington was immediately drawn to the script of his new psychological thriller The Little Things. "It was a really interesting story I hadn't seen before, with a scarred, cynical, and guarded character I had not played before. If [my character] Deke ever had any faith, he's lost it, but he goes on a spiritual journey, through the sort of hell that only a cop could understand," he told the Financial Times in January 2021. 

Washington plays Deke, a Los Angeles County detective who is trying to catch a serial killer with Sgt. Jim Baxter, played by Rami Malek. The two believe a man named Albert Sparma (played by Jared Leto) is behind the string of murders around town.

The trailer for the thriller dropped in December 2020, and the movie was released in theaters and on HBO Max for a limited time in January 2021. The film has definitely received mixed reviews, with some saying on Twitter that it "could have been better," but with others congratulating Washington on a job well done. The Little Things, though, which has a middling 48 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing, is stirring up some controversy — and it's only growing.

Denzel Washington's new film The Little Things is receiving backlash

The treatment by police officers of those belonging to minority groups has been fiercely criticized for decades and has gained renewed attention in recent years, especially after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to kneel during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality in America. While his actions received both positive and negative responses, more people were ready to stand behind the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd, a Black man, was suffocated at the hands of police in front of several onlookers in 2020.

With this in mind, some people aren't as excited about the plotline of The Little Things as Denzel Washington was. Screen Rant touches on the subject in its review of the film. "With trust still a major issue with the police force among the public in certain areas, some viewers aren't responding well to the movie's timing," the publication notes. "The Little Things' reviews are already underwhelming, and it will be interesting to see if the ending's controversial elements deter potential viewers as the movie continues streaming on HBO Max."

(Spoiler alert: If you don't want plot details, skip to the next section.) Elements of the film's plot are stirring up controversy. After realizing their prime suspect isn't the culprit, Sgt. Baxter (Rami Malek) kills him out of rage, per We Got This Covered. Deke (Washington) shows up at the scene and helps cover up the murder, which sparks another series of events that cause dark secrets from Deke's past to re-emerge. 

Denzel Washington speaks out on police brutality

With The Little Things under his belt, Denzel Washington has played 13 law enforcement officers throughout his award-winning acting career, as reported by Yahoo!. During a February 2021 interview, Washington discussed policing in America and calls to "defund the police." 

"I have the utmost respect for what they do, for what our soldiers do, [people] that sacrifice their lives," Washington said. "I just don't care for people who put those kind of people down. If it weren't for them, we would not have the freedom to complain about what they do." The actor recalled going on a police call while preparing for the film Ricochet and realizing firsthand how quickly a cop can lose their life on the job. "In an instant it taught me, and I never forgot it, what our law enforcement people have to deal with moment to moment, second to second."

The Training Day star explained to the Financial Times why he wanted to participate in the movie. "It was real page-turner, and it was exciting because I was like: 'Oh, well, it's not what you think. It's like, wait a minute, who is the good guy and who's the bad guy here?'" he recalled. It seems that for Washington, his focus is solely on the scripts and the stories told by them.