Review by Dan Skip Allen
Gangster films have come in all shapes and sizes in the history of cinema. Sometimes they come in the form of epic films like the Godfather trilogy and Goodfellas. Other times, they come out as biopics like Donnie Brasco. Once in a while, there are even comedies about gangsters like Analyze This and its sequel and Get Shorty. The Outfit is a very different kind of gangster film than I've seen before.
Leonard (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies) is a run-of-the-mill mild-mannered English tailor in Chicago, but he has a tragic past. He gets wrapped up in a murder mystery above his pay grade. He has to figure out how to navigate this mystery without getting himself or his employee Mable (Zoey Deutch, Before I Fall) killed. The thing is, Mable has some secrets of her own involving the son of the mob boss Richie (Dylan O'Brien, The Maze Runner). This film has a lot of twists and turns.
The Outfit is a film set in one location: the tailor's shop. Everybody comes and goes from this shop. All the pertinent dialogue to the viewer to help figure out the murder mystery is right in front of them. All the actors sell this little story perfectly. The director, Graham Moore, created an atmosphere of tension and fascination with this Chicago underworld. The characters are fascinating and thought out, making the story that much more fun to follow.
Even though the film's single setting might make it claustrophobic, what it actually does is open it up to a lot of story beats that might not have been able to be fleshed out. The script by Jonathan McClain and Moore is very open and informative while keeping the secret up until the end of the film. The idea of an English tailor who creates suits is very prophetic within the context of the film. Suits have all these cuts and layers to them. The people that buy them can give a lot away about who they are and what they are about. This man can determine this by just doing his daily job of creating suits.
The cast of The Outfit is very good, starting with the men and women I mentioned already. The thing is, there are more fascinating characters within this little gangster film. Francis (Johnny Flynn, Emma) is a member of the boss's gang and a cutthroat killer. Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale) is a very convincing mob boss. He's ruthless. Violet (Nikki Anika Bird) is the wild card in this story. Her motivations are very subtle and filled with revenge. This cast is filled with capable actors who perfectly play their part in this mystery.
As far as gangster films go, this isn't the loudest or most explosive film. It's a more character study of this man, his loyalties, and where he has come from that has gotten him to this place and time. The single location works perfectly to help keep this mystery. The story unfolds one twist at a time, which is fun to see. The viewers will never see what's coming. It's locked up tight until the script decides to let itself unfold. The cast act out every scene like it's a Shakespeare play to get the most out of every line of dialogue and movement. This film might not be for everybody, but I loved all the nuance and movement around this one location. All the characters kept me entertained throughout. Mark Rylance hasn't been this good in years.
The Outfit hits theaters on March 18.