From time to time, those films appear which, even with the great prestige and fame that they entail, end up slipping the radar of most audiences. Released in January in the United States and arrived in Brazil in April this year, Os Pequenos Vestígios is part of the HBO Max release collection deal that shocked the entertainment world before the platform’s debut in our country. . This contract stipulated that all of Warner’s major releases for 2021 in theaters would fall simultaneously in streaming, as a means of boosting its platform and thus gaining more space in the market, competing with the leaders Netflix and Amazon.
So, in times of pandemic, even if he had three Oscar-winning stars of the level of Denzel Washington, Jared Leto and Rami Malek to boost a thriller in the style of Seven (1995) and the series True Detective (2014), Os Pequenos Vestígios went completely white, becoming one of the least discussed films of this first half of 2021. It contributes to its ostracism that the critics weren’t very kind to the film, guaranteeing it in the Rotten Tomatoes dividers 45% of approval, although with the public, both in the same aggregator and in IMDB the ratings were much more favorable. And here I am with my proposal to recommend the film to you. So you can try and check it out for yourself, especially if you are a fan of the crime thriller genre. Les Petits Vestiges can positively surprise you, just like me.
I’ll start off by saying that this isn’t the typical investigative thriller we’re used to, although it has all of the genre’s conventional narrative structure. Like the aforementioned real detectives Seven and The Silence of the Lambs Before Them, it’s the story of police investigating kidnappings and murders of young women, most likely perpetrated by a serial killer. The important thing here, however, is that it is more about the life and psychology of the investigators than the criminal himself. And there, the feature film has its similarities with Zodiaco (2007), by David Fincher, and Os Suspetos (2013), by Denis Villeneuve, given their proportions.
Denzel Washington, a two-time Oscar winner and considered by many to be the most talented of his generation, plays cop Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon, a disgraced talented investigator. Once one of Los Angeles’ most promising agents, Deke “burned all bridges” by becoming obsessed with a case involving the disappearance and death of some of the city’s young women. His disaffection with most of his co-workers resulted in him being transferred to a small town, where he was demoted. Such an obsession even caused her divorce and her estrangement from her daughter.
Years later, he returns to the old neighborhood to hand over documents and again finds himself in the middle of an investigation that may be linked to the past. The sensational young cop Jim Baxter (Rami Malek), the interpreter of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), is now leading the case. While there is some friction at first, as Deke does not feel comfortable in the place and criticizes the new student for fitting into the religiosity imposed by the head of the police station, by leaps and bounds the couple , veteran and newcomer, begins to mesh and show that they have a point of intersection: stubbornness for the case. Baxter claims to work for the victims, while Deke claims to be for himself. But it could be the other way around, as the film will show us.
The Washington character has a personal trauma of tragedy, which is unraveled throughout the screening. Malek’s detective, on the other hand, enjoys the hype about being a hero and having his ego inflated. And these characteristics will determine these two men during a fateful investigation. Malek’s character is a young married man with two young daughters. However, one of the negatives that doesn’t go too well is the odd way the actor decides to play the character, sometimes looking like the psychopath he’s hunting down. I do not know if the intention was to arouse the suspicions of the investigator himself. Either way, it’s a very peculiar and dark choice for a character surrounded by light. And her character’s final decision is so dubious that it has generated mentions that this is not standard police behavior.
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Enter set designer Jared Leto as the film’s best character. The odd hillbilly Albert Sparma – even his name is weird. Hairy, bearded, cadaverous but with a false belly and a very distinguished gait, the composition that the young actor makes for the character is impressive. The Leto chameleon disappears on paper and all we can see is a being bordering on the grotesque. Someone you wouldn’t want to meet at night in an alley. Sparma is a refrigerator repairman who works in a store and ends up becoming the prime suspect in the investigation. What stands out in the text is the spirit with which the character was created, always one step ahead of the investigators, owner of quick and quite satirical intuitions. Deep down, the detectives know he’s the culprit, or at least they would very much like him to be.
Sparma is the type who lives in a tight space, doesn’t have high aspirations, and even seems slow in the head. He spends all his free day in strip clubs. However, when defeated, he turns out to be the smartest guy in the room. It’s that triple power cord that follows a deliberately slow-paced cat-and-mouse game that might even make you give up the trip, believing it to be another “Cops Hunt a Psychopath” movie.
Turns out there’s a reason The Little Remnants is set in the ’90s, and that’s because it was written by director John Lee Hancock in 1993, and it was put all of those aside. years as one of those great projects that don’t get filmed. At the time, Hancock stood out as a screenwriter when he wrote A Perfect World, starring Kevin Costner and directed by Clint Eastwood. Amidst crime dramas that are not what they appear to be, Hancock also developed this film’s darker plot. At the time, names like Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, and Danny DeVito were all about getting the text off the paper to no avail. DeVito was even interested in playing Sparma, if he were to commission the feature film. Have you thought? Other than that, the late Brandon Lee, son of legend Bruce Lee, would have read the screenplay and been interested in one of the roles, before his untimely death in 1993 while filming The Crow.
John Lee Hancock and The Little Remains would go their separate ways. Hancock would go on to become a prestigious director at the helm of Oscar nominated productions, see A Possible Dream (2009) and Walt Behind the Scenes by Mary Poppins (2013), as well as acclaimed works such as Power Hunger (2016) and Estrada Sem Lei ( Netflix). Almost thirty years later, after having done a lot in his career, the director saw the complete cycle of his work unfold when he finally dusted off his text and brought it to the screen.
Many appreciate the effort of the main trio, but Os Pequenos Vestígios is much more questioning. In terms of performance, the talented and egotistical Leto has the advantage of knowing how to appreciate a character as juicy as Sparma. Leto said he was worried about playing a dark character again, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with the now legendary Denzel Washington. And we can attest that their scenes with the actor catch on more fire than their scenes with Malek. Two scenes in particular attract attention. The interrogation where Denzel explodes on Leto. And the “chance encounter” on the highway where Washington settles for the duel. Pure tension.
What struck me most was the implicit debate on the death penalty and its consequences. Even if it is not in a didactic way, the text is clear on its intentions. On the fine line between the guilty and the innocent. About instincts and evidence. What to do when everything points in one direction but you can’t prove it? How many innocent people have died after being convicted of a crime they did not commit? The system may work 99% of the time, but can the 1% really be considered side effects? Sparma had nothing and no one to intercede for him, in which case he becomes replaceable?
The duality of heroes and villains, good and bad, is what gives Os Pequenos Vestiges such a special flavor. Its result is the lack of salt in the wound in beloved productions such as Seven and Os Suspetos (2013). And maybe because of this they are loved and the downside offered by Os Pequenos Vestígios is not.
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