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Review: 'The Outfit' (2022) Dir. Graham Moore

Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Dylan O'Brien, Johnny Flynn, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Simon Russell Beale and Alan Mehdizadeh


A tale of the dark and dangerous Chicago underworld, seen through the eyes of a gentle English "cutter", presents twists and turns and shakes up the genre in a sly murder mystery...

English cutter Leonard Burling (Rylance) operates a small shop in Chicago working for a bespoke selection of the wealthy and elite. Yet most of his clients are gangsters belonging to a criminal network known as 'The Outfit'.

Keeping his head down as his shop is used by the Boyle mob to contact The Outfit and plan their war against rival gangs, it becomes clear that there is a mole operating within their ranks,

As the Boyle mob descend on Leonard's shop to root out the mole, the body count starts to stack up when fingers are pointed and accusations fly, with the truth proving to be a very muddy and bloody affair...

The snowy streets of 1956 Chicago in winter play host to this crime thriller, but looking and feeling more like a stage play than a guns blazing and car chase crime story. A minimal cast, focused production and a heavy script make for interesting watching respectful of the genre but without the usual expectations.

The Outfit of the title refers to a shady underground criminal organisation formed by one Al Capone that now operates as a network across America, the Chicago front using Mark Rylance’s bespoke tailor shop as a middle ground for exchanging private letters and top-secret information. When an operation given by said Outfit goes awry and it leads to a cold-blooded killing, it’s clear there’s a mole within their close-knit group. But who? Where? Why? Just some of the questions we are forced to try and answer through close encounters in the back room of the cutting shop amidst fine clothing, gowns, sharp suits and trilby hats.

With each character juggling morality, responsibility and devotion to “family”, audiences are drip-fed steady revelations, but somehow nothing feels as clear-cut as it seems. No pun intended.

Rylance’s Leonard Burling is a well-respected tailor – or “cutter” as he prefers to be known – keeps his eyes and nose out of the Outfit’s business, most of whom are his best customers. In that respect, he knows everyone from the Chicago mob boss Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale), his charming son Richie (Dylan O'Brien) and trigger-happy Francis (Johnny Flynn), all who are desperate to root out the ones threatening their operation. Rylance is the innocent man in the middle, having survived two world wars and seeing a whole host of nightmares, he doesn’t want to get caught up in a mob war with Nikki Amuka-Bird’s rival gang boss Violet LaFontaine. He has a brilliant balance of fragility, fatherly love and attuned cunning to help Leonard be someone you want to survive the night; a very likeable man with stiff-upper lip British backbone.

Spunky Zoey Deutch as Mabel the receptionist, who longs for more than being stuck in a tailor’s shop, also adds another “suspect” to these core roster of characters. All are different, all are connected, and all could have a motive for selling out an individual or a whole outfit. With no room for excessive distraction or bit players, these characters are wonderfully rounded and not afraid to show both sides to their persona, which makes for often tense and unpredictable arcs.

Debut director Graham Moore doesn’t go for an all-guns blazing mob story, but a story that focuses on a host of select characters in a single location to retain tension. A bluesy score by Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat keeps the era and genre present throughout with a subtle mix of strings and percussion, and the sharp editing by William Goldenberg and steady cinematography by Dick Pope continue to make this a solid offering of the gangster genre, but with a real difference and logic behind the tale and not just depending on explosions or Hollywood excess.

A different sort of gangster story told with minimal cast in a single location, but with excellent performances and production that give us a thriller not afraid to keep you guessing until the rewarding end.

'The Outfit' is a FilmNation Entertainment production

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