The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - THE OUTFIT | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - THE OUTFIT

the outfit review
A mild-mannered tailor is caught up in a night of danger.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Graham  Moore

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

the outfit poster

If I were feeling particularly cruel I might suggest 'Reservoir Slogs' as an alternate title for screenwriter turned director Graham Moore's feature debut The Outfit. With a plot involving a traitor in its characters' midst, a key figure slowly bleeding from a gunshot wound and a single location setting, it's impossible not to compare it unfavourably to Tarantino's debut. While Tarantino took a stagey setup and opened it up cinematically, you get the feeling that Moore is simply filming a non-existent play. Tarantino's characters told us one thing while the filmmaker showed us another, but here the entire story is told by its characters. As a storyteller, Moore appears to concede his job to his own creations, and the result is a plot that has so many arbitrary twists and turns that they quickly begin to lose weight. By the end, if you haven't already predicted who the traitor is, you'll probably have stopped caring.

The single location here is a tailor's shop in a mob-controlled neighbourhood of 1956 Chicago. Sorry, Leonard (Mark Rylance) prefers to be known as a "cutter" rather than a tailor. Once the proud owner of a shop on London's Savile Row, Leonard has ended up in Chicago, telling anyone who asks that he left London due to the rise in popularity of blue jeans. It's an early indication that Leonard may not be all he seems, as heading to the US to escape jeans is akin to going to Holland to avoid tulips.

the outfit review

Mild-mannered, soft-spoken Leonard allows local mobsters to deposit letters in a box in the back of his shop. He keeps his head down and doesn't ask questions. One fateful night, he's no longer able to look the other way and is pulled into the violent world of the mob.

Just as he's shutting up shop, local mobsters Richie (Dylan O'Brien, unconvincing as a heavy) and Francis (Johnny Flynn, very convincing as a slimy shitheel) come bounding through his door. Richie has been shot and Francis figures that since Leonard spends his day sewing, he can stitch up his wound. It's revealed that a rat has been bugging the mob's conversations and sending the tapes on to the FBI, and as several other characters find their way to Leonard's shop, a battle of wits is played out as the tai…sorry, cutter attempts to survive the night.

the outfit review

As a self-confessed "show, don’t tell" cultist, I struggled with the talky, exposition-or-is-it manner of storytelling deployed here. The story is told largely through words rather than images, and most of those words come from Leonard, a narrator who can't be trusted. It seems Leonard is making things up as he goes along, and this rubs off on the film itself. There's no sense of a filmmaker in control here. This is the antithesis of auteurist cinema.

Moore fluffs several potentially suspenseful moments, most glaringly one involving an incriminating piece of clothing, a mobster's coat. Rather than hard-wiring the coat into our brains so that we realise it's on display and may betray Leonard, Moore draws our attention to it as the same time Leonard is informed of its conspicuous presence. He opts for a cheap shock rather than sustained suspense, breaking Hitchcock's golden rule. Elsewhere Moore sets himself up for an unfavourable comparison to Hitchcock with a plot beat borrowed from Rope, arguably the best screen version of this sort of setup.

the outfit review

While Moore's film suffers from stilted storytelling, it's saved by some thrilling performances. Rylance has become something of an Anthony Hopkins figure, a very gifted performer who too often gives in to hamminess. Every once in a while he reminds us how great he can be. The Outfit offers the sort of role that suits Rylance best, forcing him to discard any tics as he essays an insular personality. For such a dialogue heavy movie, it's telling that the most effective moments in the movie are those that let us watch Rylance's face as his character assesses the scenario and plans his next move. Flynn gets to ham it up as a clichéd Chicago hoodlum, but he understands exactly the archetype he's playing and is a lot of fun to watch. I didn't buy Simon Russell-Beale and Nikki Amuka-Bird as Irish and Creole mob bosses, but they're engaging nonetheless.

Moore owes his cast a round of drinks, as otherwise, unlike the bespoke suits fashioned by Leonard, The Outift's storytelling simply isn't sharp enough.

The Outfit
 is on Netflix UK/ROI now.