For some reason, the trailer for Focus Features film, The Outfit, seemed to preview the likes of a satisfying mash-up of Kingsman-style mayhem with Gangster Squad-esque story and character work. Instead, The Outfit is significantly more grounded in its approach to a 50s-era gangster flick. Disappointment from the action not being quite up to snuff for a crime drama is probably a moot point, but a bevy of other shortcomings is what really hurts. With strong turns from Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Dylan O’Brien, and Johnny Flynn, I wish I loved the film halfway as much as I adore this cast.
Mark Rylance plays the lead role of Leonard the tailor, or as snappy young gangster Richie (Dylan O’Brien) refers to him, “English.” Having moved to Chicago from the UK, Leonard takes this nickname in stride. Along with his lovely assistant Mable (Zoey Deutch), Leonard makes gorgeous clothing for the wealthy and privileged. The business does not discriminate, taking money from all those who can afford their services. This mantra ends up getting Leonard into a fair amount of trouble. One night, Richie shows up bleeding, the victim of a gunshot wound. Richie’s pal, Francis (Johnny Flynn), fills in Leonard that there is a rat among their gang’s ranks. Someone spoke to the feds, resulting in a wire tap by the FBI. Leonard is tasked with nursing Richie back to health, and guarding a tape that will reveal the ultimate identity of the rat.
After a big explosion of violence, The Outfit becomes almost laboriously paced. Though I did not nod off, I was bored with the direction this took, and expected grander fireworks with the cast and creatives that were involved. Director Graham Moore was also responsible for writing The Imitation Game—that movie carries stakes and tension that The Outfit could not hope to possess in a million years. I liked Rylance’s quote about how fashionable things don’t last, and to put it into context, I think The Outfit is a movie that will be forgotten amongst the pack, despite having a 2022 theatrical release. I see little here to dissuade my argument, or to think that audiences will care for the newest dose of gangster cinema.
The accents in The Outfit and attention to detail in the costuming are reason enough to give it at least one watch. I particularly loved O’Brien’s Richie, who is constantly carrying an edge of annoyance in his voice, and Deutch as Mable gets to sink her teeth into the juicy assistant role. An ending and surprising twist produce a large amount of goodwill toward the movie, and almost justify the languid pacing present in The Outfit’s saggy middle section. In the end, there is not enough meat on the bones to recommend a full course. The actors do their best, and the slickness of the production nicely compliments the darker elements. The movie needed an injection of excitement to carry it across the finish line; that late-in-the-game conclusion certainly tries hard, but I left The Outfit wanting to simply replace it with a better one.
The Outfit suits up for audiences when it debuts exclusively in theaters on Friday, March 18th.