The Outfit is a stylish whodunit-esque gangster film set in the 1950s. Mark Rylance stars as Leonard, a former Saville Row Tailor trying to get by in Chicago while dealing with the politics of the city’s seedy underground. In the back of his shop there’s a lockbox looked after by the Boyle family.
When letters start appearing from a surreptitious organisation aptly named The Outfit, things start heating up. A tape sent by the group reveals a snitch in the Boyle family. As they try to figure out who the rat is, more and more is revealed about our main character.
First time director Graham Moore, writer of the Oscar-winning Imitation Game, wrangles an expansive tale of the Irish mob into a single location with a cast of just seven, but has ultimately ended up with a perfect example of style over substance.
Set primarily during one eventful night, The Outfit should be a tense, action-packed film that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats
Despite a decent performance from Rylance and some smart touches here and there, the film is unable to achieve the slick, well-crafted feature it so clearly believes it is.
From early on we suspect that Leonard knows more than he’s letting on. Instead of trusting that those watching will be able to solve the mystery themselves, they spell it out – sometimes even multiple times.
Combined with its tendency to tell, not show, the audience, the film is scarce of suspense and loses much of its shock value.
Any anticipation they do manage to muster up lacks follow-through, and we don’t get the payoff. Slivers of interesting story points get glossed over or end up being extremely underwhelming. And it’s a real shame.
There’s no sense that these characters have real depth or a life outside of the film. You’d struggle to imagine them existing anywhere except within the walls of the shop. The only character who gets any actual backstory is Leonard, but even that feels somewhat flimsy and lacking.
Leonard’s relationship with Mabel (Zoey Dutch), his receptionist and daughter-like figure, is sweet and provide’s a respite from the violence. But it remains surface level, and it’s far from Dutch’s usual high calibre performances.
At points in the film little mistakes by the actors – a fumble of some glasses, a miss-grab of a tie – feel unintentional and out of place in a film about high craftsmanship and skill. Long pauses are overused, sometimes even misused, and make everything feel slow.
To top it off, the acting lack finesse. Dylan O’Brien’s performance is at times a little boring but at others over the top, Johnny Flynn shows up at moments but with what seems like not much to work with, his dialogue feels clunky and unnatural.
The story is filled to the brim with potential that goes unfulfilled. We know it’s possible for situational stories to be incredibly successful – some of the episodes of Inside No. 9 proves that – and we know the stars have talent to spare. Ultimately, it feels as though a few wrong decisions here and there took away the fire and excitement from the film, making it a lukewarm watch.
Featured image credit: Focus Features/Universal