Small Crimes

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Small Crimes
Small Crimes poster.jpg
Small Crimes film poster
Directed byEvan Katz
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onSmall Crimes
by Dave Zeltserman
Music by
  • Will Blair
  • Brooke Blair
CinematographyAndrew Wheeler
Edited byJosh Ethier
  • Rooks Nest Entertainment
  • Fairmount Films
  • Rumble Films
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
  • March 11, 2017 (2017-03-11) (SXSW)
  • April 28, 2017 (2017-04-28) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

Small Crimes is a 2017 American crime film directed by E. L. Katz. The screenplay was adapted by Katz and Macon Blair from the novel of the same name by Dave Zeltserman. The film stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Joe Denton, a former cop recently released from prison for attempted murder. The film also stars Gary Cole, Molly Parker, Macon Blair, Pat Healy, Jacki Weaver, and Robert Forster. Small Crimes premiered at South by Southwest on March 11, 2017, and was released by Netflix on April 28, 2017.


Joe Denton, a corrupt ex-cop, is released from jail. Six years earlier, while on the mob's payroll, Denton attacked district attorney Phil Coakley, earning him the enmity of the police and the nickname "slash cop". After finding his ex-wife has left the city with their children, he moves in with his elderly parents. Denton researches his ex-wife on the internet, eventually digging up a phone number. After briefly talking to one of his daughters, his ex-wife takes the phone and threatens to press charges if he ever contacts them again.

Denton passes a bar on his way back home. Although a recovering alcoholic, he enters and orders a drink. His friend Scotty, the brother of Denton's slain partner, greets him and offers him any help he needs. A young woman asks Denton for a ride home. Denton is surprised when she reveals herself to be Coakley's daughter and intentionally bloodies herself. Cued by her cries for help, two men drag Denton from his car; Denton beats both men savagely. After Denton is questioned by the police, Coakley admits the evidence backs up his story and reluctantly asks if Denton wants to press charges. Denton declines, saying he wants to leave his history in the past, to the disgust of Coakley and Lieutenant Pleasant, who calls him a disgrace.

Pleasant, revealed to also be corrupt, demands Denton kill mob boss Manny Vassey, who has found religion on his deathbed. Pleasant explains Vassey's guilty conscience may lead him to confess to Coakley. Pleasant promises to help Denton renegotiate the terms of the settlement with his ex-wife if he kills Vassey. At his house, Vassey denies the rumors. As Vassey falls asleep, Denton begins to suffocate him, only to be interrupted by Charlotte Boyd, Vassey's hospice nurse. Denton smoothly thanks her for her work and leaves the house, where he encounters Vassey's sadistic son, Junior. Junior threatens to kill Denton, enraged that Vassey would see him while avoiding his own son.

Frustrated with his suspicious behavior, Denton's parents demand explanations. When they disbelieve his lies, Denton angrily accuses them of having no faith in his redemption. Denton encounters Boyd again at a diner, and the two soon begin dating. After Pleasant threatens him and his parents, Denton probes Boyd for a way to access Vassey. When this fails, Pleasant suggests he murder Coakley instead. Denton breaks into Coakley's house but can not bring himself to do it. Instead, he bribes Toni, a prostitute Coakley has been seeing, into secretly recording him.

Denton sets up a camera in Coakley's hotel room and waits in a nearby room for Coakley to arrive. During Coakley's tryst, Toni's boyfriend, Rooster arrives. Driven by jealousy, Rooster kills Toni and is killed by Coakley in return. Denton witnesses the shooting and waits for Coakley to leave before running into the room to look for the camera. Realizing that Coakley found and took the camera, Denton returns home dejected.

After another argument with his parents, in which his father asks him to leave, an unknown assailant fires several shots into Denton's parents' house, wounding his mother. Denton confesses to Boyd, with whom he has grown closer, that the situation has spiraled out of control. She assures him it will work out, and, unknown to Denton, murders Vassey. Junior catches Boyd in the act. Denton is kidnapped by Junior's thugs and Junior reveals he has tortured and presumably killed Boyd. Denton's protests that he was uninvolved with Vassey's death are interrupted by the arrival of Scotty.

Denton and Scotty kill Junior and his thugs, but Scotty is shot. Denton attempts to save Scotty but stops when he learns that Scotty was the one who shot his mother. Coakley had revealed to Scotty that it was Denton who killed his brother under Junior's orders. Denton leaves Scotty to die and receives a call from Pleasant informing him that Coakley died in a car accident. Coakley had been distracted, watching the recording of his shooting of Rooster while driving.

Denton ransacks his parents' house for dirty money they found and hid from him before kicking him out. After Denton finds the money and indicates his desire to deliver it to his children, Denton's father says he will not allow Denton anywhere near the children, fearing Denton's self-destructive impulses will harm them. When Denton incredulously asks what his father can do to stop him, Denton's father stabs him. In his dying moments, Denton wipes his father's fingerprints off the knife and adds his own, to make the wound appear self-inflicted.


  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Joe Denton, a former police officer
  • Gary Cole as Dan Pleasant, Joe's former partner and a police lieutenant
  • Molly Parker as Charlotte Boyd, a nurse who gets romantically involved with Joe
  • Macon Blair as Scotty Caldwell
  • Pat Healy as Junior Vassey
  • Jacki Weaver as Irma Denton, Joe's mother
  • Robert Forster as Joe Denton Sr., Joe's father
  • Michael Kinney as Phil Coakley
  • Daniela Sandiford as Cara Coakley
  • Shawn Lawrence as Manny Vassey
  • Glen Bowser as Abraham
  • Larry Fessenden as Earl
  • Tara Yelland as Toni
  • Derek Barnes as Rooster
  • Tyrone Benskin as Chaplin
  • Frank Schorpion as Flattop


Director E. L. Katz and producer David Lancaster were first revealed to be producing on the film in May 2016, with Katz working with Macon Blair to adapt Dave Zeltserman's novel of the same name.[2] The next week, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau joined the cast of the film.[3] Jacki Weaver, Robert Forster, Gary Cole, and Molly Parker were all announced to have joined the cast in July 2016. Filming began in Montreal, Quebec shortly after the cast was finalized.[4]


Small Crimes premiered at South by Southwest on March 11, 2017, as part of the "Narrative Spotlight" screenings.[1] Netflix purchased the distribution rights to the film a month ahead of its premiere,[5] and the film was released exclusively on Netflix on April 28, 2017.[6]

Critical response[edit]

Reviews for the film have been mixed, with many reviewers praising various performances and others criticizing the storyline and humor. As of June 2020, the film holds a 63% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 16 reviews with an average rating of 5.48 out of 10.[7] Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted score of 60 out of 100, based on six critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[8]

In positive reviews, David Ehrlich of IndieWire and Britt Hayes of ScreenCrush particularly praised Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's performance and character, with Ehrlich saying that "as much of a chore as [Small Crimes] can be to sift through at times, there’s a well-conceived method to all of this densely packed madness" and Hayes stating that "Coster-Waldau is a pro at playing narcissists, but in Small Crimes he brings additional pathos to the role of Joe".They gave the film B+ and 8 out of 10 respectively.[9][10] Brian Tallerico of stated that while Small Crimes was "similarly clever if a bit less satisfying" than Cheap Thrills, he praised the supporting cast (particularly Gary Cole and Pat Healy) and the film's clean conclusion.[11] Michael Roffman of Consequence of Sound similarly praised Coster-Waldau's performance, along with those of Jacki Weaver and Robert Forster, as well as the film's tonal shifts "that make each outcome even more jarring". He rated the film a B.[12] Jacob Hall of /Film gave the film a 7.5 out of 10, negatively comparing the film to Cheap Thrills but enjoyed it overall. He praised the performances (with the exception of Coster-Waldau's) and plot.[13] Mike D'Angelo of The A.V. Club also praised Forster's performance and the tone of the film, saying "If the film came across as jaded and cynical, it might well be hard to take. Instead, it seems weary and defeated, as if some people are simply born to fail."[14]

Conversely, Kristy Puchko of The Playlist criticized the film's humor and called it "one note". While she praised the performances of Daniela Sandiford, Cole, Weaver, Forster, and Healy, Puchko stated that Coster-Waldau's performance "keeps us at a distance, unable to connect, empathize, or care". She rated the film a C-.[15] Sheila O'Malley, also writing for, criticized the script's lack of any exposition, saying that "it's hard to figure out what actually happened, who did what to whom". While she praised the execution of the characters, she also commented on the presence of "a lot of dead air". She rated the film two out of four stars.[16]


  1. ^ a b "Small Crimes". SXSW Schedule. South by Southwest. Archived from the original on March 26, 2017. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  2. ^ Miska, Brad (May 5, 2016). "'Drive' Producer Teams With 'Cheap Thrills' Director For 'Small Crimes'!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  3. ^ McNary, Dave (May 11, 2016). "Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Starring in Dark Comedy 'Small Crimes' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  4. ^ Busch, Anita (July 26, 2016). "Jacki Weaver, Robert Forster, Others Join E.L. Katz's 'Small Crimes'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  5. ^ Keslassy, Elsa; Lang, Brent (February 6, 2017). "Netflix Buys Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's 'Small Crimes' Ahead of SXSW Debut (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  6. ^ Collis, Clark (March 9, 2017). "Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has big problems in the trailer for Small Crimes". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  7. ^ "Small Crimes (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  8. ^ "Small Crimes Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on March 22, 2017. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  9. ^ Ehrlich, David (March 14, 2017). "'Small Crimes' Review: Macon Blair and Evan Katz Join Forces For a Modestly Satisfying Dose of Pulp Fiction". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
  10. ^ Hayes, Britt (March 12, 2017). "'Small Crimes' Review: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Leads a Lean, Mean Follow-up to 'Cheap Thrills'". ScreenCrush. Townsquare Media. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  11. ^ Tallerico, Brian (March 13, 2017). "SXSW 2017: "Lucky", "La Barracuda", "Small Crimes"". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  12. ^ Roffman, Michael (March 18, 2017). "SXSW Film Review: Small Crimes". Consequence of Sound. Archived from the original on April 24, 2017. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  13. ^ Hall, Jacob (March 18, 2017). "Small Crimes Review". /Film. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  14. ^ D'Angelo, Mike (April 26, 2017). "Jaime Lannister goes ex-con weary in the uneven Netflix genre riff Small Crimes". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  15. ^ Puchko, Kristy (March 14, 2017). "'Cheap Thrills' Director E.L. Katz Hits A Sophomore Slump With 'Small Crimes' [SXSW Review]". The Playlist. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  16. ^ O'Malley, Sheila (April 28, 2017). "Small Crimes". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved May 14, 2017.

External links[edit]