Directed by: Graham Moore
Premise: Set in 1950s Chicago, a couturier (Mark Rylance) runs a suit shop in a neighborhood controlled by the Irish mob. During a night of violence, the son of the local mob leader seeks shelter in the shop.
What Works: The Outfit is an intimate and clever thriller. Virtually the entire movie unfolds within twenty-four hours inside of a suit shop that’s utilized as a drop box by the Irish mob. Despite its limited location, the filmmakers create a palatable sense of time and place. That partly owes to the production design which convincingly recreates a mid-twentieth century shop. This place looks lived in and the people who inhabit it belong there. The Outfit also has a vivid sense of imminent violence. We’re told that over the course of this night the city is embroiled in widespread mob violence and although we only see a bit of it that impression of violence colors the whole movie. The filmmakers use the space effectively. The Outfit could easily become claustrophobic or visually redundant but the filmmakers find interesting angles and block the action in ways that create depth and tension. The store is staffed by Leonard, a highly skilled cutter, and his receptionist who are played by Mark Rylance and Zoey Deutch, respectively. Leonard’s profession requires precision and that quality defines his character and the movie itself. Rylance is a restrained actor but there are many subtle details to his performance that enhance the subtext of the scenes and the filmmakers shoot and edit the film to capitalize on those nuances. Deutch is also quite good. The character could easily be a cliché shopgirl but Deutch and the script by Graham Moore and Johnathan McClain make her more than that. The storytelling of The Outfit is intricate with characters talking in doublespeak that reveals their intentions without overtly stating it.
What Doesn’t: The Outfit struggles to keep itself credible. There are two sequences in which a character who has suffered critical gunshot wounds gets up and moves around as though he’s only had the wind knocked out of him. The second instance is especially egregious. The filmmakers overextend themselves trying to outsmart the audience. The plotting of The Outfit is delicate and in a few places the filmmakers overexplain the characters’ machinations and motives. That is especially true of a coda sequence that is tacked onto the ending. Leonard is an interesting character because of his intelligent and humble manner which is refuted by a backstory that is tacked on at the last minute.
Disc extras: None.
Bottom Line: The Outfit is a satisfying thriller. The storytelling gets a little wobbly in places but the film keeps up the tension and tells an involving story with some interesting characters.
Episode: #930 (December 12, 2022)