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'The Outfit' review: Mark Rylance leads swaggy gangster pic

Courtesy of Focus Features


A gangster movie that’s literally tailored made for fans of the genre, Oscar winner Graham Moore’s swanky “The Outfit” finds Mark Rylance playing a suit tailor based in 1950s Chicago who is caught in the middle of a sticky situation. Set in a single location over the course of one twisty evening, “The Outfit” might not rewrite the status quo on mobster pics-a good chunk of the movie is played straight while men draw guns on themselves in an enclosed spaces-watching Rylance in his post Oscar prime slapped a giant grin my face. He’s certainly relishing the spotlight and Moore’s juicy script gives him plenty to savor.

Rylance plays Leonard, a British tailor, in the usual soft-spoken demeanor we’ve come to expect from the thespian. The crafty fabric-man has relocated to Chicago for reasons the movie (or this critic) aren’t quick to reveal. He’s left home with nothing but tailor scissors (which are large enough to be mistaken for garden shears) and his small business has found moderate success on the backbone of local gangsters who frequently patronize, and ultimately use the place for shakdowns and rendezvous between shoot-outs. The local scene is run by Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale), an aging Al Capone type who’s put his youngest, hot-headed son, Richie (Dylan O’Brien) in charge of select operations though not without a babysitter: a family confidant named Francis (Johnny Flynn - committed as ever) who’s trying to climb up the ranks.

These rag-tag group of mobsters often purchase the finest suits from Leonard while using the backroom to pick-up encoded messages in the drop box. Leonard probably would prefer if he wasn’t involved, but he knows the business, in which he clearly loves, wouldn’t thrive without the watchful, stern eye of Roy who can make heads turn by walking through the door. But it does give the reserved tailor a slight advantage in that he studies the psychological state of these men and knows how to maneuver around their antics. He’s got a nice and plucky secretary named Mable (Zoey Deutch) who’s eager to save up enough cash and ditch the Chicago scene though she harbors a few secrets of her own.

Naturally, thanks to J Edgar Hoover’s stance on crime, a rat has been uncovered within Boyle’s inner circle and has been allegedly selling trade secrets to rival organizations and the FBI. A tape recording device has shown-up with damning evidence and now Francis and Richie need to figure out how to play the tape and sniff out the perpetrators identity. Secrets are unearthed, bullets fly, and loyalties are tested throughout the taunt 100-minute thriller that can sometimes move at a snail’s pace, but thankfully is never boring.

Watching this quartet of performers go through the motions playing tough guys (specifically Beale and Flynn, the latter truly making a name for himself) opposite the calculated precision of Rylance who digs in his heels when things start hitting the fan is quite the romp. Of course, there’s more than meets the eye (the title is a clever play on Leonard’s perforession plus a secret gangster syndicate) and that’s the beauty of Moore’s ingenious screenplay. It might be loose around the edges, but it eventually fits like a glove.

Grade: B+

THE OUTFIT opens in theaters Friday, March 18th.


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