'The Outfit' review: Rylance leads handsome gangster thriller

Mark Rylance is the quiet center of Graham Moore's well-tailored '50s-set crime drama.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

He minds his own business, keeps his head down and stays focused on his work. But silently he's listening, paying attention to the details of his surroundings and sizing up everyone around him, and not just for a crisp new suit. 

Oscar-winner Mark Rylance ("Bridge of Spies"), hotter than ever at age 62, is the quiet center of "The Outfit," a taut gangster thriller that unfolds over one night in one location. (It's an example of COVID filmmaking gone right.) It marks the promising directing debut of Graham Moore, an Oscar winner for his screenplay for "The Imitation Game," and it's just as tight and meticulous as the character it's built around. 

Mark Rylance in "The Outfit."

Rylance is Leonard, a cutter — don't you dare call him a tailor! — who owns a luxe Chicago suit shop. Leonard, a WWI vet who jokes he moved from England to the States after James Dean brought blue jeans into vogue, works on designs in the backroom of his shop, cutting and sewing fabrics into fine wardrobes for his top clientele, the gangsters who control the city streets. 

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It's December 1956 and there's a war between the rival families, the Boyles and the La Fontaines. One night that battle spills over into Leonard's shop, when Richie ("The Maze Runner's" Dylan O'Brien), the son of boss Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale), and his friend Francis (Johnny Flynn) end up hiding out after hours. (To add a wrinkle into the mix, Richie is dating Leonard's assistant, Mable, played by Zoey Deutch.)

Tensions escalate, guns go off, and a tense game of deception unfolds where Leonard stays out of the fracas until he's all but forced to become involved. It's there he shows his skills are not limited to just cloth, scissors and sewing materials, and the strings he pulls are not limited to just those on suits. 

To say much more would be to give away the fraught pleasures of this tightly wound suspense piece, but suffice to say that Rylance, just off his wackadoo performance as a Steve Jobs-like tech guru in "Don't Look Up," turns in a deliciously muted performance and Moore (who co-authored the screenplay with actor Johnathan McClain) offers confident, assured, controlled direction. "The Outfit" isn't flashy or attention-grabbing, but it's an assuming, subtle surprise, the kind that never goes out of style. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'The Outfit'

GRADE: B

Rated R: for some bloody violence, and language throughout

Running time: 104 minutes

In theaters