The Outfit is an excellent, simmering crime drama that has the feel of a stage play, due to its intimate camerawork, excellent dialogue and setting – all the action takes place in the backroom of a tailor’s shop in 1950s Chicago.
Mark Rylance plays Leonard Burling, the softly spoken proprietor of the shop; he’s an English tailor – or ‘cutter’ as he prefers to be known – who has built his business from scratch, fitting Savile Row quality suits onto the neighbourhood’s Irish mob boss, Roy Boyle – and his acolytes.
The shop is also a drop-off spot for the gang’s various rackets. A locked deposit box in the back is witness to the comings and goings of hoodlums with cash stuffed brown envelopes and monogrammed correspondence for the outfit – the nationwide crime syndicate.
The film does not attempt to explain how or why Burling tolerates this arrangement. His relationship with Boyle (Simon Russell Beale) is cordial and respectful though there is the suggestion that the latter had at least a passing involvement in the death of his ward Mabel’s (played by Zoey Deutch) father, though, again this is left deliberately opaque.
Mable craves a life away from the Chicago underworld and has no interest in Burling’s trade or taking ownership of the store. Perhaps, then, not the best idea to get into bed with the mob boss’s hot-headed son, Richie (Dylan O’Brien).
THE OUTFIT (2022)
Trouble is brewing in the city, the rival crime families are engaged in a power struggle and Boyle is under pressure to step up to the next level. A bug has been planted and an incriminating tape that would cement his place in the outfit has been recorded. However, things go sideways when Ritchie is shot and wounded, while picking up the tape and he and Boyle hired killer Francis (Johnny Flynn), descend on the shop to lie low.
Johnathan McClain’s script begins to twist a tale of betrayal and reveals as suspicion and menace grow. The Outfit is the directorial debut of Graham Moore and it is a very solid effort. Rylance and Russell Beale are excellent as cutter and mobster and the single set production helps maintain a claustrophobic intensity. Moore cleverly avoids the violence you might expect to come with a gang war by instead keeping the big shootouts offset.
All in all, this film is as immaculately tailored as the suits that the character of Burling creates.
The Outfit is in cinemas now.
Mark Rylance and Simon Russell Beale are excellent in this underworld potboiler. Atmospheric, suspenseful and skilfully played.