‘The Outfit’ Review: Mark Rylance Shines as a ‘Cutter’
Graham Moore won an Oscar for his screenplay on Alan Turing’s life in The Imitation Game (2014). Now he has directed his first feature film, The Outfit, which he co-wrote with Johnathan McClain. The final product is a bit unusual in that it takes place almost entirely in a tailor’s shop and features only a handful of characters. It’s a film that would transition easily to the stage for live performances.
Mark Rylance (Oscar winner for Bridge of Spies, 2015) excels here as Leonard, a Savile Row-trained tailor now working his craft in his own shop in 1956 Chicago. His path from London to the Windy City is a bit murky, but we immediately take note of Leonard’s calm and elegant presence accompanied by his soothing voice. Rylance uses that voice as narrator to explain the intricacies involved with creating a man’s suit, and the importance of reading the man prior to utilizing the 4 fabrics and 38 pieces that make up the outfit. Leonard is also protective of Mable (Zoey Deutch, Zombieland: Double Tap, 2019), his assistant who dreams of traveling the globe.
An early montage shows us how The Mob utilizes Leonard’s shop for drops, and trusts him due to his ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ demeanor. Leonard is one cool dude, and it’s obvious we (and the mob) are underestimating him, but we can’t quite figure out why or by how much. One crazy night changes everything. Richie (Dylan O’Brien, The Maze Runner) is brought into the tailor shop after being shot during a rival gang’s ambush. He’s accompanied by Francis (Johnny Flynn, Emma., 2020), and the dynamics between these two is quite interesting. Richie is the son of the Boyle family patriarch and has been seeing Mable on the side, while Francis is the favored employee after saving Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale) by taking gunfire. Richie is a whiny, spoiled wannabe tough guy, while Francis is volatile and constantly sneering.
What follows is a bit Hitchcockian. We have plot twists, murder, backstabbing, danger, and surprises. When it’s discovered the Boyle family has a rat that is feeding details to the rival cross-town gang and the FBI, things get tense thanks partially to a MacGuffin audiotape. It all leads to confrontations in the shop, and some nice scene-chewing from Simon Russell Beale and Nikki Amuka-Bird as the leader of the rival gang. An elaborate plan by one of the characters is a pleasant surprise (to us, not the others). As Leonard points out on a couple of occasions, he’s a “cutter,” not a tailor – a distinction he takes as seriously as his skill with shears. The film’s title has double meaning: the suits Leonard crafts, and the national syndicate that involves the Boyle family. Most of this we’ve seen before, but it’s Rylance’s portrayal of Leonard that offers a different look and feel. Fans of deceptive thrillers will find some joy here.