“The Outfit” is a thriller set inside a Chicago tailor shop. Master tailor (cutter) Leonard Burling must navigate a host of gangsters as he tries to survive a night of intrigue and betrayal.
Pro – The cutter
Mark Rylance is the show in this film. He plays the master tailor (or cutter, as he corrects everyone) and the story revolves entirely around the Academy Award winner’s performance. Not to worry, he’s up to the task. The film is a slow burn, and Rylance can make even the most mundane of tasks seem important and satisfying. As the film progresses, a simple look or tone shift pushes the story forward. The lift in the film for this role is massive, and it’s only because of the talents of Rylance that this film is compelling rather than boring. Zoey Deutch is fine in her role as assistant and surrogate daughter, Mable, but she’s not given much to do. The gangsters in the film are adequate at best, feeling more like props than living, breathing characters.
Pro – Compelling
What is most exciting about “The Outfit” is how compelling it is. It smartly weaves two worlds together, and that keeps the audience glued to the screen. It’s fascinating to get an inside (if brief) look at the profession of a 1950’s skilled tailor (cutter). The tools, the craftsmanship, and the process are a fascinating touch point for the film. At the same time, the plot and the character of Leonard begins to unfold before the audience, and it’s fascinating to watch. The audience is thrust into the plight of a hardworking man unwittingly placed into a situation he’d prefer to not be in. The entirety of the film takes place inside the shop, save a couple shots of the storefront window. It gives the film a slightly claustrophobic feel not unlike a stage production, which suits theater phenom Rylance just fine.
Con – Gimmicky
The one downside to “The Outfit” is that it simply becomes too clever for its own good. The first two-thirds of the film are a master class in suspense and build. As the final act comes down though, the film shifts from the winds of fate to the perfect puppet master. It’s not horrible, but it feels lazy. The audience is asked to make a few too many leaps of faith, and some machinations appear to be based entirely too much on luck for anyone to claim intentional outcomes. Worst of all is a late scene that simply skews too far into absurdity in multiple ways. Landing the plane is always hard, but to elevate a movie like “The Outfit” from good to great, it’s not enough to just set-up a great mouse trap. The audience needs to see a smart way out rather than a writer/director just using some C4 explosives.
“The Outfit” features an amazing performance by star Mark Rylance. The story is interesting and compelling and a wonderful change of pace in tone and style from much of Hollywood’s current offerings. It’s prevented from entering rarified air by a stiff supporting cast and an ending that feels a little too convenient. That said, it’s more than worth the effort to put on a crisp suit and head over to the Fridley Palm Theatres to check it out.