The Outfit (CREDIT: Nick Wall/Focus Features)

Starring: Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Dylan O’Brien, Johnny Flynn, Simon Russell Beale, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Alan Mehdizadeh

Director: Graham Moore

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: R for Turf Warfare and Mid-Century Profanity

Release Date: March 18, 2022 (Theaters)

Before watching The Outfit, I had no idea what the difference between a tailor and a cutter was. Actually, scratch that: before watching The Outfit, I had no idea that “cutter” was even the name of a profession. But now that a character played by Mark Rylance has told me what’s what, I won’t soon forget it. Basically, the gist is that whereas a tailor typically focuses on one particular article of clothing, a cutter can make adjustments to the entire ensemble. So that’s my biggest takeaway from this movie, and for that I’m quite grateful!

Rylance takes on the role of Leonard, a post-World War II transplant from London’s Savile Row who’s running a steady business in Chicago when we meet him. He left his bombed-out hometown to escape violence, but now he finds himself smack dab in the epicenter of gangster warfare. That’s right, the title of this flick refers to “outfit” in both senses of the term!

With that setup, this is more or less a how-to guide for how to survive amidst violence when you don’t have any interest in being loyal to either side. Leonard and his trusty assistant Mable (Zoey Deutch) both have the requisite amount of craftiness and self-reliance to keep themselves out of harm’s way just enough. By the time the credits are about to roll, there’s a very high probability that you’ll find yourself shouting, “That son of a gun was in control the whole time!” And hey, if you want somebody acting as a smooth operator in the middle of chaos, Mark Rylance is your guy!

Director Graham Moore (who also co-wrote the script with Johnathan McClain) keeps the action confined entirely to Leonard’s shop. You might call that a stagey decision (and honestly I’m surprised that this wasn’t based on a play), but the claustrophobia it conveys sure feels right. Besides, cinematographer Dick Pope always knows exactly where to direct our attention. And that tight confinement also makes it feel like we’re getting to know everyone better than we would have otherwise, which is especially appreciated when the cast includes the likes of Johnny Flynn and Teen Wolf vet Dylan O’Brien as the gangsters, which leads me to ponder, “Damn, these guys are now old enough to play career criminals?” Overall, it’s a nifty little construction, with every cut exactly where it’s meant to be.

The Outfit is Recommended If You Like: Crisp diction, secret pockets, acting showcases

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Cutters