With Trial of the Chicago 7, Don’t Look Up, and The Phantom of the Open, most of our recent encounters with Mark Rylance have had him in a more relaxed, comedic mode but if you’ve been wanting him to recapture that Thomas Cromwell magic he had in Wolf Hall, The Outfit is a welcome change of pace. Here he holds court in this fun, if stagy, thriller as a slyly Machiavellian tailor trying to work a mob conflict to his advantage, a consummate professional with hidden agendas, a role that suits Rylance down to the ground.

He plays Leonard – though everyone just calls him ‘English’ – a Londoner who trained on Saville Row but moved to ‘50s Chicago to ply his trade somewhere where money flows more freely. Despite some reservations, he allows a local mob crew to use the back of his shop as a drop zone, exchanging money and messages while Leonard pretends not to notice. Inevitably, though, this arrangement eventually leads to trouble when heir apparent to the gang’s boss, the hotheaded Richie Boyle (Dylan O’Brien) turns up at the shop late at night bearing a bullet in the gut and a tape recording revealing the identity of a rat within the gang.

So begins a very long night, one that writer-director Graham Moore sets exclusively within the confines of Leonard’s shop and backrooms with a rotating cast of characters. Leonard is the constant, at first accompanied only by his assistant/kinda-sorta surrogate daughter Mabel (Zoey Deutch) before she heads home for the night and the chaos begins and we start meeting the mobsters. Moore’s use of the single setting is a good choice, generally more of a help than the hindrance such a gimmick could pose, keeping things claustrophobic and making sure key information is out of our reach until Leonard himself learns it, immersing us in his headspace.

Rylance is, naturally, a very strong anchor for this story, especially once Leonard starts scheming, playing Richie off against the more meticulous and ruthless Francis (Johnny Flynn), who is both Richie’s enforcer and rival for the top job. It’s very entertaining to watch the power dynamics within the shop shifting in real time as everyone jumps to conclusions, getting more and more paranoid until a mid-film shift suddenly raises the stakes by an order of magnitude.

Someone’s always got a new trick or lie up their sleeve, which is a lot of fun, though there are a few too many last-minute twists as The Outfit approaches its overstuffed conclusion. The staginess pays off the deeper you get into the plot, as the geography of the place becomes more and more familiar and every step in the wrong direction sets off alarm bells for us and Leonard – though the production design could do with being a bit more memorable for an interior that we’re spending 105 minutes in.

The finale does tip too far into silliness, Moore not quite able to keep up the excellent momentum built in the second act, but you’ll enjoy the ride there. The Outfit is an old-school drama built on clever schemers, lucky escapes, some fun twists, and goons in nice suits – key ingredients for a satisfying Sunday night watch.


Directed by Graham Moore

Written by Graham Moore and Johnathan McClain

Starring; Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Johnny Flynn

Runtime: 105 mins

Rating: 15