Released: 18th August
Seen: 16th November
There really is nothing quite like a gangster film, it’s such a fascinating underground world that can often lead to a story full of intrigue, backstabbing and murder if done right. Of course, the problem is that there have been so many truly great films in this genre that it’s hard to do something to stand out. You could go the Guy Ritchie route with something like The Gentlemen and make a big broad comedy full of fast quipping characters, a ton of extravagant action scenes and just blow the budget on going all out or you could take the route The Outfit takes and be a little quieter, calculated and generally intriguing.
The Outfit takes place entirely inside one location, that being the tailor shop owned by Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance), a cutter known for making the best high-end suits around. His main clients are the local mob, in particular, the son of the mob boss Richie Boyle (Dylan O’Brien) and his enforcer Francis (Johnny Flynn) who use Leonard’s shop as a place to stash their ill-gotten gains, something Leonard accepts due to how many outfits they buy and out of a general desire to keep living. One night Richie gets shot in the gut so he and Frankie turn up to Leonard’s shop to get help. This one event begins a chain reaction that will expose secrets, put lives at risk and destroy a lot of high-quality suits.
The Outfit is a lot more calm and easygoing than a lot of crime dramas, exchanging epic dramatic gunfights for carefully thought-out plot twists that slowly add some serious intensity to the proceedings. The film starts off in a simple place with the two mob guys needing the tailor to help patch one of them up but by the end, we’re dealing with gang wars, dead relatives and a secret informant with the FBI and the narrative flows so naturally that it feels natural for everything to just go completely insane.
Secrets seem to be the biggest element of The Outfit’s story, revealing secret motives or secret girlfriends or a secret tape that’s captured dozens of crimes. Each one is revealed at just the right second, it’s almost like a science. The film is meticulous in playing out each new bit of information r up to the point where it runs the risk of becoming dull before throwing out something new and shifting the energy again. It’s not an easy trick to pull off, in lesser hands it could backfire or feel like the film’s just doing dramatic reveals for the hell of it but The Outfit is just smart enough to pull it off.
With a small ensemble cast, so small there’s almost never more than 4 people in a scene at the same time, The Outfit takes the time to make sure we really get to know all of the main characters in glorious detail. From the calm and reserved lead performance by Mark Rylance (who basically carries the film) to the hyper-energetic and somehow intimidating Dylan O’Brien, every character is well thought out and feels like they have a long history together which makes their scenes truly pop. Moments that are just calm little discussions between characters end up becoming some of the best parts of the film because they let us get to know these characters.
Impressively, considering The Outfit takes place in one fairly small location, it never feels like a stageplay which is always a risk with these single-location films. It uses every inch of the location to the best impact, getting some wonderful dramatic shots or clever visuals out of it or using the way everything is set up in order to create some truly grand moments of tension and shock. The film just plays everything so carefully and with such care that it makes everything seem so much bigger than it actually is.
The Outfit is one of the more impressively tailored films out there, well thought out with some genuinely great performances and a fun engaging plot. It’s simple but effective, trying to do a few specific things very well and sure enough it does them. It’s just a generally good film, engaging from start to finish and an easy fun watch. It might not be the most grandiose film in this genre, but it’s a damn good entry that should appeal to pretty much anyone who enjoys crime dramas.