Berlinale 2022: A Mysterious Night with Mark Rylance in 'The Outfit'
by Alex Billington
February 22, 2022
"Not every man in a suit and tie is a gentleman. Not every gentleman wears a suit and tie." But some still do… The Outfit is the first feature film directed by an up-and-coming writer and producer named Graham Moore, originally born in Chicago, Illinois. The film recently premiered as a Special Screening at the 2022 Berlin Film Festival and it's a clever, sneaky little mob thriller set in one location. It has this familiar "made during the pandemic" vibe, specifically that it's built around a very small cast and it all takes place in one location meaning they could make it in a small studio with a small crew and easily follow all the COVID-19 rules & regulations. But that doesn't take away from the thrill of the film, as it's a gripping tale of Chicago mobsters and one tailor who might just be smarter than all of them. If you've been watching movies over the last decade, you already know that any time Mark Rylance is in a film it's a must see – even if just for him.
The Outfit stars Mark Rylance as the quiet, humble tailor / suit maker named Leonard. He now runs a small shop in Chicago in the 1950s, having moved over to the Windy City after working on Savile Row in London. His assistant is a lovely lady named Mable, played by Zoey Deutch, and she is loyal to Leonard though is ready to get out of the city and live a "bigger" life as soon as she can. Leonard's shop is also a mob drop box location, with various people coming & going dropping money into a secure lockbox in the corner. He knows how to play the game, he's a smart man, and just wants to make his suits in peace, which means letting them in & out without getting in their way. This also assures that the mobsters will be his clients, as only wealthy folks like gangsters and their kin can afford the high class, hand-made suits he makes at his shop. But one snowy night everything falls apart, and he ends up right in the middle of a war between the Chicago gangs.
It's clear right from the start that Graham Moore has a deep love for and connection to Chicago, as this film is very much a Chicago film. But considering it was all shot on sound stages and takes place mostly indoors at this shop, it's not really a film about Chicago at all. But the mobsters involved are all definitely Chicago mobsters. Richie and Francis, played by Dylan O'Brien and Johnny Flynn, are the first to show up at the shop, but things start to go awry when they discover an envelope marked with a symbol from "The Outfit" - a network of mob outfits nationwide organizing plans to cooperate together. The script is the best part of the film, an intricate yarn that is designed to keep you wondering what's next, and who's going to appear next, and how (if at all) Leonard will outsmart them and save his shop. Leave him alone, I say! He seems so kind, and you really feel for him as a craftsman who loves what he does, hoping he will somehow make it out safe.
Perhaps I'm just a sucker for a good suspense thriller where the script is smart enough to keep you guessing and keep you hooked. The Outfit does, unsurprisingly, also feel like a play. A handful of characters come & go inside a small shop and that's it, and it could just as easily be performed on stage. Sometimes this bothers me, but not always, and this is one of those cases where the cinematic elements of the film make it just as worthwhile as a big screen experience. Plus it has Mark Rylance, who is always the best actor in the entire cast, always giving an impeccable performance. There's nothing I can critique about him or his character in this one, only to say that I want to see more of him. If he's this suave in this film, I wonder what else he can do. He also seems like he'd fit in perfectly into the John Wick universe somewhere. The Outfit isn't the kind of film that will win awards or set box office records, but it is an engaging little story of outwitting mobsters.