Every Suspect Fits A Pattern: The Outfit (2022) - Reviewed

1920's Chicago had seedy crime syndicates galore — none more notorious than “the Outfit.”  Led by Al Capone and his colleague Johnny Torrio, this Italian-American gang of mobsters ran rampant all over the Windy City during Prohibition and made a lasting impression.  While the Outfit was never a monopoly, they were considered the largest, most violent, and most powerful criminal organization in not only Chicago, but the entire Midwest in general.  This fact ties into Graham Moore’s crime drama The Outfit, an aptly titled film whose moniker has a dual meaning — intended equally to suggest the aforementioned gang as it is a reference to the main character’s profession in this film, who is a tailor (or “cutter,” as he insists on being called).

Leonard (Mark Rylance) is a British gentleman in his golden years who moved to Chicago for a change of scenery, with a new clientele who would appreciate his meticulously handmade suits.  He and his lovely assistant Mable (Zoey Deutch) are making steady business…but his clientele aren’t exactly the most respectable chaps.  The audience soon learns that his storefront is a sanctuary for a family of ruthless mobsters who make him good money, but also put him in the middle of some compromising situations.  One night, while he’s working late at his shop, Leonard’s predicament escalates when two of these mobsters come banging on his door, one of which is shot.  Not only is he bullied into sewing the wound shut with needle and thread unintended for such purposes, but he also becomes privy to a tape with some dirt on it that the FBI is jonesing for and could imprison the mobsters thanks to a “rat” in their circle.  Will Leonard be able to navigate himself out alive from this harrowing night?  And at what cost?

The Outfit is a small, carefully crafted film that has the spirit of a stage play.  The dialogue — particularly Leonard’s — has a poetry about it that commands attention, and the story is so singularly focused with the sole set of his shop that it would lend itself well to that medium.  Each actor from the small cast is undeniably charismatic, and every action has laser focus that ends up mattering immensely in the long run.  It’s easy to get lost in the world Moore paints here — thick with British charm, balanced out by crude 1920's gangster talk.  No matter how simplistic Leonard seems in his motivations and character, Mark Rylance’s brilliant performance brings him nuance and makes the audience crave more.  There’s an essence about the film that commands attention, and the viewer will be more than likely to oblige.

Another aspect of The Outfit that shines is the level of suspense that it’s able to sustain until the very end.  While some plot twists might prove predictable for seasoned audiences, there’s a constant tension about the film once the protagonist is thrown into the thick of it that is palpable.  Plot twist upon plot twist make this presumably simple film on the surface transcend the visage of the “standard crime drama,” morphing it into something far more compelling and gritty by the end.  While there’s notable tension throughout the film once the plot escalates, there’s a slight sense that the film could have told the same tale more tightly by trimming 15 minutes off both ends.  Otherwise, it’s a solid, entertaining experience for any fan of the genre.

The dichotomy between “old world” England and “new world” Chicago makes The Outfit a must-watch.  It’s a bold yet classy exercise in powerful storytelling and effective character portrayals.  Don’t miss a chance to see it, and get ready to play a fun guessing game when you do.

-Andrea Riley