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'The Outfit' Review: Mark Rylance Attempts To Sew Up Peace With The Mob

Mark Rylance with his arms on a cutter's table
Focus Features

Maybe there's no editor here, maybe they are a redactor. In The Outfit, there are no tailors, there are just cutters. Either way, Graham Moore's first directorial effort after being known for his writing is a tale about people who are assumed to be something they actually are not or don't see themselves being. We are in Chicago in 1956 and Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance) likes to remind people visiting his shop that he's indeed a cutter. During one very eventful night local crooks Francis (Johnny Flynn) and Richie (Dylan O'Brien)—a son of the local mob boss Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale)—arrive to Burling's shop, which is also the mob's stash house, after Richie has been shot by a rival crime family. Things escalate quickly with someone dead and Burling begins to figure out how to survive the night along with his receptionist Mable (Zoey Deutch).

The Outfit is a very typical first outing in the sense that it essentially could work as a stage production just as well, taking place in very few rooms and barely having shots outside the shop. Cinematographer Dick Pope's lighting is still cinematic, though, as he creates deep shadows and silhouettes effortlessly from where characters come into light just as secrets of mobsters do. That's also the way Rylance seems to approach his character, conjuring up enough empathy to make you care about what happens to him and Mable, while still holding cards up his sleeve. As the story progresses, a suitably eerie atmosphere appears around Burling when manipulating Francis, Boyles and rival family of La Fontaines, Rylance controlling close-ups and conversations masterfully.

Part of that uneasy feeling about escalating events comes across in Alexandre Desplat's score, where the keys play freely around scales when Burling or Francis seem to be improvising a bit more, while his string arrangements keep up the tension before releasing them with clusters. On the writing and directing side, Moore and co-writer Johnathan McClain display more twists and turns where most at home, as betrayals and power grabs take the spotlight. They actually write at least two solid endings in the final act but finish the story with a much less interesting and less humanistic one. Moore's direction gives plenty of room for the dialogue to soar and the drama is very much about the people at the shop or right outside of it. You'd wish the ending would've trusted those dramatic elements ultimately to bring it home.

Smileys: Score, Mark Rylance

Frowneys: Ending

Well, someone should've gone to a fitting for a casket, not for a new suit.


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