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The Outfit

When my friend David Epstein recommends a movie to me, I always sit up a little straighter and pay attention. We both appreciate great storytelling and acting. His latest recommendation, THE OUTFIT features some of the best pure storytelling I’ve seen in a long time.

Mark Rylance (Dunkirk, Bridge of Spies) stars as Leonard, a cutter (don’t call him a tailor) whose corner shop makes beautiful clothes for Chicago patrons in 1956.

Most of Leonard’s customers seem to be mob men, who slide in and out of his shop to drop mysterious envelopes in a box in his back room.

The mobsters come and go, but Leonard rarely looks up from his work. You get the feeling that he couldn’t identify any of them in a lineup. The film’s early scenes establish his routine. It’s meticulous, measured, and precise, just like his cutting.

Zoey Deutch is Mable, his young assistant who dreams of escaping to Europe and all the places that Leonard left behind for reasons he keeps private.

We meet Richie (Dylan O’Brien) the brash son of mob boss Roy (Simon Russell Beale). Richie is overly confident and his young partner in crime Francis (Johnny Flynn) grows impatient with Richie’s cocky ways.

THE OUTFIT unwinds deliberately, carefully.

Each of the characters fit into the plot like a finely crafted watch. Emotions run deep, as do ambition, planning and greed.

When Francis shows up very late one night, half carrying the recently shot Richie with half the Chicago police force in pursuit, the true games begin.

Like a modern, violent take on a classic Agatha Christie stage play, characters come and go from Leonard’s shop. Many arrive at the exact wrong moment, ratcheting the suspense up to incredible levels as Writer/Director Graham Moore’s clever script unwraps one secret after another.

At least three times, I thought to myself, “How in the hell is Leonard going to get out of this one?” But things are never quite what they seem. Reveal after reveal shows off one of the best screenplays of the year.

Rylance delivers another incredible performance.

His narration that weaves through the film from its opening scene to its final frame is layered, calm and revealing. Rylance is fantastic.

Flynn (Emma) is excellent as the volatile Francis and Beale brings quiet power to his mob boss who gave Leonard his first start in America by embracing him to the neighborhood he controls. Watching Beale and Rylance dance around the truth about Richie delivers pure, classic-Hitchcock vibes bathed in Tarantino tension.

Just when you think it can’t get any better, Nikki Amuka-Bird arrives as La Fontaine, another gangster boss seeking her own piece of Chicago. She owns the screen, never easy when Rylance is in focus.

One of my favorite movies of the year, THE OUTFIT is a tense and brilliant thriller. Criminally underseen by audiences, it gets an A+.

Thanks David. Just plain brilliant.

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