Writer/Director Graham Moore’s directorial debut The Outfit is a showcase for the indomitable talents of star Mark Rylance.
Crime films do not get any smarter than The Outfit. The Mark Rylance starring film is top to bottom aces and always a few steps ahead of you, in the best way.
Leonard (Rylance) is a “cutter”, not a “tailor”. It’s a distinction in the details that Leonard prides himself in. Since leaving Savile Row to start anew in America (specifically Chicago), he has built his business with only his shears and sheer will. It helps that his customers are of the Criminal variety. It also helps his Shop is the drop point for payouts to Roy (Simon Russell Beale) the head of the local crime family. It’s only when Richie (Dylan O’Brien) and Francis (Johnny Flynn) show up in the middle of the night, Richie shot, that things get dicey. It doesn’t help that Richie’s the son of Roy. It starts getting dicier by the minute as Leonard learns that the two may have started a war because of The Outfit and evidence there is a mole amongst them.
The Outfit is many things but above all else, it is a vehicle designed to put Mark Rylance center stage. The actor that’s worked with the likes of Spielberg, Nolan on film and has every accolade that a stage actor could win. The adroit script by Moore and co-writer Jonathan McClain gives Rylance a meal of a character. Leonard isn’t the sum of his dialog but rather the looks, actions, and mannerisms Rylance has imbued him with. It is not to say that the writing is slight, not in the least, but rather a savvy blueprint for collaboration between actor and director. The result is a performance that’s the loudest whisper in recent memory. Rylance’s silence speaks volumes more than most actors’ idiosyncratic “awards” performances.
Not to be outdone by Rylance. The Outfit adds a trio of young performers all of whom successfully match (acting) wits with Rylance. Both Dylan O’Brien and Zoey Deutch continue to show promise and growth as actors here in supporting roles. Deutch especially finds the right mixture and chemistr4y with Rylance as Mable his secretary. O’Brien’s hot-headed son of a Mobster could have been one-note but the actor gives us enough of the unease of an untested youth that makes the role all the more interesting. Though it’s Johnny Flynn as Francis that steals the show.
Flynn matches Rylance ounce for ounce in his performance as Francis, the weary psychopath who took “six marbles” for his boss and nothing to show for it. The actor doesn’t go big or theatrical as many would have, rather Francis is calm and collected. Everything is played on his face and through his eyes. Part of the joy of the performance is the subtle and slow realization of Flynn’s talents as he goes toe to toe with one of the best actors currently working in the English language. Rylance never gives Flynn an inch and either does Flynn.
Writer/Director Moore’s debut feature is as assured a piece of crime fiction as we have had in recent memory. Moore’s stylish and controlled direction is aided by Dick Pope’s astute and lovely cinematography. The film is essentially a one-location story but always feels visually inventive and open and when necessary, claustrophobic. There’s a beauty and elegance to the film that recalls the kind of work that the Coen brothers and Barry Sonnenfeld created for their gangster neo-classic Miller’s Crossing.
The Outfit is a rarity amongst crime films and the gangster subgenre.