Now streaming–Mamet meets Collins in compelling crime play, The Outfit

Review by C.J. Bunce

Hazards of the trade…

It may or may not help you to know that burling is the process of tying up loose ends.  First time director Graham Moore (Oscar-winning writer of The Imitation Game) and Johnathan McClain (Mad Men, Medium, Without a Trace), co-screenplay writer with Moore, come out guns a-blazing in the limited theatrical release The Outfit, now streaming on Peacock.  An exquisite, slow-burning crime drama of deception set in the 1950s, with the then-new FBI technology of planting bugs to trap the Mob, rises to become one of the year’s best films, sure to deliver a second Best Oscar nod come award season for the steady-hand and subtlety of star Mark Rylance.

Moore and McClain combined the best parts of Max Allan Collins’ Road to Perdition and the style of David Mamet (The Untouchables, Hoffa, The Spanish Prisoner) with maybe even a bit of Aaron Sorkin to tell the story of a former London cutter (not a tailor)–a trained craftsman of men’s suits–who finds himself opening a shop in Chicago.  Somehow his shop becomes the drop box for messages between factions of The Outfit–Chicago’s moniker for the Mob.  If you haven’t seen a stage play in a while, this movie is for you.  Get ready to ease back for two hours and soak up smart acting and storytelling with the kind of theatrical pacing and dialogue you typically only find from the best playwrights.

Rylance brings that same slow confidence we’ve seen before in The Trial of the Chicago 7, Ready Player One, and Dunkirk.  Rylance brings even less energy here, required of the very deliberate personality of “English” the name the mobsters dub this clothesman with Michael Caine’s working-class London accent.  Zoey Deutsch (Zombieland: Double Tap, Ringer) is his assistant, who desires to leave behind the Chicago that destroyed her family.  Dylan O’Brien (Love and Monsters, Infinite) is one mob boss’s son, who is competing for his father’s attention with another henchman-in-the-making, played by Johnny Flynn (Operation Mincemeat, The Dig, Emma.).  

It’s a locked room mystery that takes place entirely in a clothier shop.  Who is this British fellow with the shears?  And which of these four characters is telling the truth?  Don’t be dissuaded by the subject matter–this isn’t a dreadfully boring movie like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  Rylance’s character may even make a great pairing with Colin Firth’s haughtier counterpart in The Kingsman series.  There’s no comedy here, but the suspense of The Outfit is on par with the 2020 film The Courier and Collins’ Road to Perdition.

Keep an eye out for brief but notable appearances by Nikki Amuka-Bird (Quarry, Luther, Torchwood) and Simon Russell Beale (Operation Mincemeat, Radioactive, My Cousin Rachel, Thor: Love and Thunder).  Alexandre Desplat (Isle of Dogs, Argo, The Golden Compass, The King’s Speech) offers a subdued cat-and-mouse musical score, and cinematographer Dick Pope (The Illusionist, Freddie Mercury and Rick Astley music video filmmaker) makes a surprisingly stylish use of a single set.

This would have been fun at the movie theater or one to enjoy at your local playhouse, but it’s also a great watch in your living room.  Any fan of good storytelling should check out The Outfit, now streaming on Peacock, and available in physical and digital media here at Amazon.

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