At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Outfit “2022”

MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Crime Drama-Thriller/ Stars: Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Dylan O’Brien, Johnny Flynn, Simon Russell Beale, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Alan Mehdizadeh/ Runtime: 106 minutes

I think it should be said at the beginning of this review that if there is one thing I have said that I always appreciate it’s when a slice of cinema comes along and surprises me in the best way possible. Maybe it’s because I am so familiar with how 95% of these films are going to play out let alone be received that I love when a movie manages to actually be better than even when I was expecting it to be. The reason I bring this up is because the recent slice of cinema I am reviewing today, 2022’s The Outfit, is definitely an example of that kind of movie. Indeed here is a slice of cinema that takes place in a singular location, was filmed during the height of the pandemic that has gripped our world for the past couple of years, and in many respects really feels like something that was meant to be a stage play and as such could easily have been way too theatrical and overdramatic for its own good. Yet astonishingly this slice of cinema is able to come into its own thanks to the fact that, much like a fellow crime thriller movie like Reservoir Dogs, is one that is in possession of a powerful collection of performances. As a result, this slice of cinema is able to utilize those terrific performances and come into its own despite its limited special effects, sets, and other cinematic trappings and emerge not only as a taut thriller to say nothing of one of 2022’s first delightful surprises, but a true under-the-radar gem that is most definitely worth checking out.

The plot is as follows: The Outfit tells the story of a skilled tailor (though he prefers the term cutter) by the name of Leonard Burling. A man who, amongst other noteworthy attributes, has recently left his native London due to the tragic and horrific bombings of World War II and has taken up residence as well as forming a new tailor shop in no less a place than the Windy City of Chicago. Unfortunately for our hero, it seems he has simply moved from one combat hot spot to another due to the fact that his shop also just so happens to be something else. Namely a “drop spot” for the local mob in town known as the Boyle Crime Organization and which is led by a notorious crime lord by the name of Roy Boyle and whose lieutenants include Roy’s kid and heir to the criminal throne Richie and Richie’s more volatile and enterprising chum Francis who has plans for the gang even though he’s not technically a Boyle…at least when it comes to blood relations anyway. Yet even with the knowledge of not only who his customers is and what exactly it is that he does, we see that Leonard is nevertheless a very loyal man to the people who purchase his services even as we see that his customers are now caught up in a vicious war with another infamous gang known as the La Fontaines. However we soon see the dear ol’ patriarch of the Boyles has started to become seriously worried. Not only due to the fact that he seems to be harboring a fairly strong suspicion that there is a person in his empire who may just be a rat, but also that his son one night makes the choice to stumble into Leonard’s shop with a serious gunshot wound from a situation he was not made aware of and demand that the tailor stitch him up good as new. Suffice it to say that even though they have desperately tried to keep their distance from the inner-machinations of their client’s various illegal dealings, we see that our intrepid hero and his loyal and devoted assistant Mabel must make their way through this twisty road as they find themselves pulled into a conflict that they would rather have nothing to do with. Yet is it not possible that our hero might have a plan or two up his sleeve as well? That and what exactly is his assistant Mabel’s connection to both Francis and Richie? Suffice it to say that I think I won’t be saying much more than that dear reader and will instead be leaving that for you to discover for yourself….

Now right off the bat it should be noted that this slice of cinema is not only the second writing film project of Graham Moore’s career, one incidentally that he co-wrote with a man by the name of Johnathan McClain who also co-wrote this film, but this slice of cinema also makes for Moore’s first time at the helm of a slice of cinema as well. Suffice it to say that close to a solid ten years after his truly remarkable work on the Oscar-awarded screenplay for the 2014 Benedict Cumberbatch-starring vehicle The Imitation Game, and I think I can safely say that Moore has managed to acquire another truly terrific slice of cinema that he can add to his filmography. Now if there was a single word that could come to mind if you were to ask me how to really describe this slice of cinema then I think the word that I would pick would have to be either deliberate or orderly. I say this because the whole narrative that this slice of cinema operates with is one that is placed on a very distinct path right from the word go and from that point up until the end it does not go off track for one single second. Suffice it to say that whereas other puzzlers and their creators may attempt to try and up the ante with a collection of twists that seem fabricated at best and seemingly out of left field at worst, this slice of cinema’s creative team make the wonderful creative decision to stick to a distinct formula all its own. As such, this slice of cinema is able to permit the movie goer to run into the various twists and curves as they watch this slice of cinema and thus attempt to comprehend who amongst the cast of characters can be trusted and who is about to stab everyone else in the back. Yes I have no doubt in my mind that there are those of you out there who are brilliant enough to have a few of the characters to say nothing of some events that transpire in this fairly figured out, the overall puzzler of what exactly is going down at this nice and quaint tailor shop is riveting to such a degree that even the most experienced junior gumshoes amongst you will be in for a surprise or five along the way. Ultimately though, perhaps the finest thing about the narrative is how the various curves in the road are actually planted quite firmly in the logic that the world in the film gifts us with thus permitting the thrills in this slice of cinema to actually feel genuine and not like something that seems rehashed or recycled in any sort or fashion. Finally, it should also be noted that in regards to the other departments behind the camera that even with the majority of this slice of cinema taking place in a singular location, the creative team with particular regard to cinematographer Dick Pope and editor William Goldenberg do a wonderful job of ensuring that each and every camera shot that we get has the vibe of being novel due to making sure it’s function at the time is as on-point as possible. Indeed a still shot can either be one that operates as solemn contemplation as the frame in question stays planted on a shaky admission or one that operates to increase the suspense in a scene as it goes quite quickly from a glance from Rylance towards items hidden throughout to say nothing of intel located all over the room in question (and which you, the movie goer is mostly made aware of). Along with that, the action beats in this are blessed with a delightful vibe of lucidity as we see that the blocking and lighting help to keep the layout of each action beat comprehensible enough so every movement that occurs is met with an eagerness to see what is about to transpire. Yes it might be simplistic and elementary, but this way of doing things does manage to give this slice of cinema a rhythmic tempo all its own.

Now in terms of performances I think it should be said that they are all terrific. Indeed in the lead role of Leonard, it should come as no surprise to learn that Rylance does an absolutely fantastic job in the part. Indeed here is a role that plays to Rylance’s talent as a supporting cast member by having him portray a fairly low-key person who has to operate in a locale filled with personalities that are fairly larger than life. No I won’t say a whole lot about the various curves in his distinct narrative arc, but what I will say is that his work in this is one component I want to take another look at on a repeat viewing if for no other reason than to see all the layers to it. Suffice it to say that it is not a lethargic role, but Rylance does exist in the background for a reason and manages to accomplish this with the talent of a masterclass performer whilst never once taking the spotlight from the rest of the cast. Now working alongside Leonard is his devoted assistant Mabel played here by Zoey Deutch and yes I know Deutch is mostly known for her comedic chops in the slices of cinema in which she has appeared. Yet even though Mable is by no stretch of the imagination a performance even remotely rooted in comedic trappings, Deutch is able to utilize a charm that is close to that to portray this fairly intelligent woman whose ideas about being a woman may be a bit ahead of the time period that this slice of cinema is set in. Yes Deutch might, in a few aspects, not feel like she fits in to the distinct time period of the film, but in many respects it is this distinct mannerism that actually helps make her performance pretty darn good and worthy to be included amongst the rest of the skilled performers in this cast. Now amongst the criminal family that is also at the heart of this narrative, the first one worth mentioning is Dylan O’Brien in the role of Richie and whilst the first thing I saw him in was the young adult adaptation of The Maze Runner back in 2013 which he was pretty good in, I also feel that he is a truly talented actor with the right material which he managed to prove not only in 2016’s Deepwater Horizon and 2020’s Love and Monsters, but here as well. Suffice it to say that the work he does in this single room thriller is something truly special. Out of everyone in the cast though, it is Johnny Flynn in the role of the loose cannon gangster Francis who manages to give this slice of cinema’s definitive performance. Indeed Flynn gives us a brilliant take on a character who is the kind of guy who can play things quite intelligently yet is also just as capable of selfishly thinking for himself when it is his hide which is at risk. Suffice it to say that from his fierce and dagger-like stare to say nothing of his weary, closed-lipped style of delivery, Flynn does a great job at playing the exact kind of scum that one might think of when they think of characters that are often key parts in a slice of cinema like this.

All in all I think it can be safely said that if you want to see what pure cinema looks like at its most potent then look past any work done by any department behind the camera and instead just focus your attention on the strength of the various performances in front of the camera. Indeed if you show me a slice of cinema like 12 Angry Men, Glengarry Glen Ross, Sleuth from 1972, or even the aforementioned Reservoir Dogs that might not have much in the way of sets, costuming, or effects, but does have a collection of powerful performances leading the way I will most definitely be more than down to give that slice of cinema a try. An exercise which incidentally has more often than not come to see several slices of cinema that fit the above description viewed as personal favorites of mine. Of course, if the slice of cinema in question happens to be equal parts as riveting, twist-heavy, and yet also as engaging as The Outfit has turned out to be then honestly that’s just icing on the proverbial cake. Indeed here is a slice of cinema that could honestly have fallen prey to being either too theatrical or, even worse, too boring and yet is saved first and foremost by a collection of terrific acting talent who give this slice of cinema no more than 110% in order to ensure that the aforementioned two words never come into play. As a result, we get a taut and thrilling slice of cinema that does a wonderful job of slowly raising the suspense thermometer all while leaving you on the edge of your seat practically from beginning to end. Thus make yourself an offer you shouldn’t refuse and go check this slice of cinema out. Who knows? You might be just as pleasantly surprised as I was. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Outfit “2022” a solid 4 out of 5.