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"THE OUTFIT"
(2022) (Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramatic Thriller: The reticent owner of a tailor shop finds himself in the middle of a dangerous situation involving some of his mobster clients who are no longer sure they can trust him or each other.
PLOT:

It's 1956 and Leonard (MARK RYLANCE) is a "cutter" who runs a men's tailor shop with the help of his secretary, Mable (ZOEY DEUTCH). Leonard's attention to detail and correctly sizing up people has made his service popular, including among local wise guys such as mob boss Roy Boyle (SIMON RUSSELL BEALE).

So much so that payments are dropped off in a locked box in his shop and picked up by Roy's adult son, Richie (DYLAN O'BRIEN), and fellow mobster Francis (JOHNNY FLYNN). Leonard tries to abstain from knowing any of their business dealings but is aware that they're in a turf war with rival mob boss La Fontaine (NIKKI AMUKA-BIRD).

That comes to a head when a shooting leaves Richie injured, and he and Francis show up at Leonard's shop after hours in possession of a briefcase that reportedly has evidence related to a suspected rat in their organization. With the stakes now raised and the situation dire, Leonard tries to figure out what to do to keep himself safe.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10

In the old days, most films were shot on studio backlots simply because it was easier and more economical than lugging around film equipment that wasn't exactly known for being portable. That eventually changed and movies finally gained the ability to look like something more than just filmed stage productions by getting out into the real world and opening things up.

That's certainly the norm nowadays. And thus, it's sometimes a refreshing change of pace when filmmakers decide to take everything back inside and face the old school challenge of delivering an engaging and exciting film that features only a handful of interior locations.

Such is the case with "The Outfit," a superb and taut dramatic thriller featuring the terrific Mark Rylance ("Bridge of Spies") as a 1950s era "cutter" and owner of a tailor shop who keeps to himself and wants no knowledge of the goings-on of his clients. Even if, but also particularly when, they're a bunch of wise guys. And no, I don't mean snarky Ryan Reynolds types.

When we first see Rylance's Leonard, he's diligently working on a suit as only a craftsman of fine attire can, all while chatting about -- via voice-over narration -- how he sizes up his customers and what they want vs. what they need. All of which will play out in unexpected ways in this gripping one-hundred-some-minute offering from writer/director Graham Moore and co-writer Johnathan McClain.

His secretary and greeter is Mable (Zoey Deutch), although she allows many of those wise guys to pass by without saying a word, what with knowing they're dropping off what are presumably payments into a lockbox. But she does make eyes with one -- Richie (Dylan O'Brien) -- who's the adult son to the mob boss (Simon Russell Beale) -- and Leonard worries about her potentially taking up with the wrong sort of fellow. But she has a serious case of European wanderlust, and it doesn't seem likely it will be long before she leaves Chi-Town.

Hopefully not in a body bag, you know, what with Richie and his cohort, Francis (Johnny Flynn), showing up with the former wounded by a "marble" that's gone clear through him, while the latter is carrying a briefcase that contains something important and possibly dangerous.

At gunpoint, Leonard uses his sewing thread to sew up the wounded mobster and the tension only mounts from there. The setting -- only a few rooms in the tailor shop are seen -- certainly helps deliver definite claustrophobia as the walls seem to be closing in on all involved, with the outcome clearly uncertain.

I obviously won't give away how things ultimately play out, but there are definite twists and turns and a few appearances by extra characters as the timid cutter scrambles to cover his bases and protect both Mable and himself.

Despite the confined setting, Moore keeps things compelling from a visual standpoint, while the dialogue takes up a lot of the heavy lifting, even if it at times feels a bit theatrical (which goes hand in hand with the stage-like sets). That might bother some, but I found that it only adds to the experience and gives the film an edgy and raw quality that's more commonly found seeing something live on the stage.

If you like smart, slick, well-constructed, and gripping dramatic thrillers, "The Outfit" will fit you like a glove. Or a well-made suit. It rates as a 7.5 out of 10.




Reviewed March 15, 2022 / Posted March 18, 2022


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