Friday Film Review--"The Outfit"
This week’s film is The Outfit, starring Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch and Simon Russell Beale. The Outfit is the directorial debut of Graham Moore, who previously won an Academy Award as a writer for the best adapted screenplay for The Imitation Game in 2014, based upon the biography of British code-breaker Alan Turing. Moore proudly describes his upbringing as being raised by two lawyers who divorced early, and then married two other lawyers. His mom is a former city attorney for Chicago, where he was raised. So little surprise, the film is set in Chicago in the 1950s and starts slowly with a deliberate introduction to Leonard, played by Rylance, who is an unassuming tailor, or more specifically, a cutter. Leonard trained in the most prestigious clothing district in London, but after World War II, unspecified events led to his relocation to a small, ordinary shop in Chicago. What is unordinary is that much of Leonard’s clientele appear to be mob related and using Leonard’s shop as some sort of drop location. Leonard appears to turn a blind eye to all the coming and going, until one dark rainy night, several mobsters take refuge in his shop after getting ambushed by a cross town rival. The mobsters soon smell a rat, and refuse to leave until they smoke out the source of the double cross.
Despite the clear unveiling of Leonard and his attachment to his craft, Leonard remains a bit of an enigma- clearly more than meets the eye but apparently at the mercy of his late-night intruders. The action is entirely confined within Leonard’s two room store, and the quality of acting and dialogue varies widely between the mob characters. The confined set give the film a theater-like feel and some of the actors read too literally as pretenders. The exception is Simon Russell Beale who plays Roy, the mob family’s main enforcer. The film is at it best when Leonard and Roy are going head-to-head. These scenes match the intensity of Jimmy Stewart and the murderers in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. The acting in these scenes is riveting, including a solid supporting role by Zoey Deutch as Leonard’s shop keeper.
So, on my ski trail rating system, The Outfit earns my highest Black Diamond rating. Mark Rylance’s performance is his best since winning best supporting actor in Bridge of Spies and is reason enough to indulge the somewhat muddled plot. Director Graham Moore cleverly peels back the layers of each character little by little to keep the audience guessing at who’s who in the tangled web. However, Moore occasionally pivots too abruptly for shock value, rather than sustained tension so masterfully executed in Hitchcock’s Rope.
The Outfit is rated R for bloody violence, language and one leaky buffet furniture piece.