Leonard (Mark Rylance) runs a quiet tailor shop in '50s Chicago with Mable (Zoey Deutch) that also serves a drop-off point for a local crime syndicate fronted by Richie (Dylan O'Brien), Francis (Johnny Flynn) and mob boss Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale). When Richie is shot and brought to the shop during the night, the carefully constructed arrangement begins to unravel...
Seeing as how there's another movie in cinemas this week where organised groups of besuited men fight each other in a mid-century setting, you'd be forgiven for thinking 'The Outfit' is poor counterprogramming. Yet, from its opening narration and Mark Rylance's calm, considered demeanour, you know 'The Outfit' is reaching for something that's altogether absent in most multiplexes and cinemas. It's not that it's stylish or even that it's classy, but rather that it's a movie that acknowledges its own limitations. It's a movie about craft and workmanship, even if it's about doing something not entirely legal.
Mark Rylance's central performance is what guides 'The Outfit', and you can really see how his younger screen partners - Dylan O'Brien, Zoey Deutch, Johnny Flynn to a certain extent - are really in awe of his presence and trying to keep pace with him. Rylance's performances, whether it's as a courtier for Henry VIII in 'Wolf Hall' or as a KGB agent in 'Bridge of Spies', are often very subtle affairs. An eyebrow furrowed or a small wave of his hand is completely considered, which is why him playing a cutter - not a tailor, which he describes in disparaging terms - makes complete sense. Every gesture serves a purpose and moves in concert with the final product.
Yet, for all of the strong casting choices, 'The Outfit' does feel somewhat baggy in places. Though it's all contained and fitted into a tailor's shop in '50s Chicago, first-time director Graham Moore and co-writer Jonathan McClain do seem to spend much too long spreading out scenes to allow for a theatrical speech to occur. It gets pretty ridiculous in parts, particularly towards a rare thrilling moment towards the end that pauses the tension just so Rylance's character can get into position. Moreover, when the story is tied into one room or one place, there really should be something more inventive in its camera movements and language. Instead, Moore opts for some pretty standard shots and visuals, choosing safe and traditional over anything flashy or vibrant.
That's not necessarily a complaint, as it wouldn't make sense to have 'The Outfit' shot in any other way, but it does highlight its limitations. In spite of this, 'The Outfit' is a classy little crime drama. While it may lean somewhat too heavily on its cast to elevate the rote nature of the script and setting, it still works remarkably well as a showcase of everyone's talents.