As we roll on through March, studios continue to steer clear of The Batman throughout most of the month. By not presenting the Warner Brothers’ film with a blockbuster challenge, it provides an opportunity for other studios to release smaller films. And thankfully, Focus Features has decided to release The Outfit in theaters this weekend. From Academy Award winner Graham Moore (The Imitation Game), making his directorial debut, The Outfit might be small in presentation, but is as stylish and detailed as the suits its main character creates. Thanks in large part to a great performance from Academy Award winner Mark Rylance, this crime thriller doesn’t lose its sharpness once things get going.
Set in 1956 Chicago, Leonard (Mark Rylance) is a tailor (or cutter, as he likes to call himself) of men’s bespoke suits. Assisted by a young woman named Mabel (Zoey Deutch), Leonard’s preparation and craftsmanship are second to none, as he turns out suits made with great care and of exceptional quality. Leonard’s shop is often visited by Chicago gangsters who communicate by dropping off envelopes in a lockbox in the back of the shop. While Leonard allows this happen even though he has knowledge of who the men are, things change when a couple of gangsters come into his shop one night after something went wrong. From there, it’s a cat-and-mouse game with Leonard trying to survive the night.
The Outfit takes place entirely in a single location, which gives the film a theatre-like atmosphere. But regardless, once the film finishes its set up by introducing its characters and making you appreciate the work that goes into creating such exquisite suits, tension begins to build as a mystery starts to slowly unravel. Playing out like an old-fashioned gangster story, The Outfit is a throwback to noir stories of decades past where dialogue-heavy scenes carry the weight of the film. As twisty as it is clever, the film doesn’t show its hand early on, leaving us to watch and wonder what will happen next. And the deeper the film goes, the more interesting things get, as screenwriters Graham Moore and Jonathan McClain do a good job of keeping you guessing.
The Outfit features a few standout performances, but is led by the always wonderful Mark Rylance, who is nothing short of mesmerizing in just about anything (minus Don’t Look Up, but not to his fault) he chooses to do. Rylance commands our attention, whether he’s trying to avoid a number of sticky situations that come his way once things ratchet up or when making a suit. Rylance, without question, seemingly was born for a role like this, one that suits the brand of charm that he brings to the screen. Mix in some brief action too and it’s even more exciting to see his performance. Deutch as Mable and Johnny Flynn as Francis are also great in their supporting roles, each of whom are among the up and coming. It’s also nice to see Dylan O’Brien makes an appearance, if only briefly, in this type of movie rather than an action-packed film.
Even though March may seem a bit bare despite The Batman entering its third week in theaters, The Outfit is a great example of a film that shouldn’t be overlooked during this time. Lovers of crime thrillers, gangsters, and noir-type stories will get a kick out of this. And at 100 minutes, you certainly can’t go wrong. You’re in and out quickly, and you’ll appreciate it. Just like if you actually went to a bespoke store getting fitted for a suit.