Gangsters in a Tailor Shop, “The Outfit”

Mark Rylance stars in Focus Features, “The Outfit”

There’s a little something for everyone playing at theaters right now.  Light-hearted comedy adventure with Sandra Bullock & Channing Tatum (“The Lost City”) or dark, dreary comic book action with Robert Pattinson & Zoë Kravitz (“The Batman”) or you could watch a three-hour Bollywood extravaganza titled ”ZZZ”. If you’re craving an old-fashioned crime thriller, “The Outfit” is a class act.

Writer/Director Graham Moore set his Chicago mob caper in a tailor shop in 1950’s Chicago. As in his screenplay, “The Imitation Game”, the plot revolves around one man. Having a great actor in that key role is essential. Benedict Cumberbatch was nominated for an Oscar for his role in that film. “The Outfit” has Mark Rylance, so good in “Don’t Look Up” as the Elon Musk character. He studied with Saville Row cutters for this role as an English haberdasher. One of the joys of the film is to watch his hands glide across the fabric as he creates a bespoke suit.

Rylance developed blisters learning the craft of cutting for “The Outfit”

You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy that view. Leonard keeps his hands busy while the well-dressed Chicago criminals come and go from his elegant shop. Unfortunately, one of his biggest clients is a mob family that’s auditioning for a larger role in a crime syndicate. As the plot unfolds, we discover that each character has ambitions that might unspool that complex thread. Like the proverbial bull in a china shop, there’s violence brewing amongst these mobsters in a tailor shop.

In “The Outfit”, guns are fired, bodies hidden and wounds closed with sewing needles. The real fireworks are in the slow reveal of Leonard’s backstory. How did this British tailor wind up in Chicago? Rylance is so good at keeping a stillness of character even in the most dramatic of situations. Leonard has steady hands while lighting the cigarettes he offers from the lacquered wooden box.

The film keeps characters moving in and out of the shop with flashbacks that foreshadow the ending. Those elements keep the film from feeling too much like a play. If you’re not ready to settle in for a dialogue-heavy show, this isn’t a film for you. The period details are enjoyable. From the heavy scissors and tiny thimble to the way Leonard makes his tea and the removing of warm socks for the Chicago winter to slip into more work-appropriate footwear, these details immerse you in the time and setting.

Besides Rylance’s star turn, it’s the women who bring the color and pizzazz to “The Outfit”.  Zoey Deutch sports gorgeous red hair and a series of great costumes as Leonard’s assistant, Mable. Every scene is livelier when she enters the shop. Niki Amuka-Bird appears in only one scene, but her poise and charisma lend the drama a poignance. Her numbers-runner is regal and her character connects with our tailor in a telling way.

In classic crime thriller fashion, there are double-crosses and alliances formed. What elevates “The Outfit” is that each reveal hides another twist. In this elegant setting of pocket squares and display cabinets sparkling with snow globes, blood will be shed and truths revealed–but the wise guys may be none the wiser. You can dress it up in a bespoke suit, but a gangster is still a gangster.

Drinks with Films rating: 3 cups of British tea (don’t forget the biscuit) out of 5


  1. HI Jill— thanks for this, I will be on the lookout for it. Right now lamenting the beginning of blockbuster season when it’s hard for me to find a film I want to see. I was momentarily intrigued by this one and stars the wonderful actress that was in “Lamb” — they liken the style to Terrence Malik…. but I played a clip and decided against it! Not interested in Lost City but will see the new Nick Cage comedy when it’s finally here.

    How are you? In the extreme odds you’d be interested, do you want a free place to stay in Boulder the last week of May, all you’d have to do is look after my two cats:))))


    1. I can’t imagine comparing it to Malik. Or are you refering to “You Won’t Be Alone”? I can’t see that one. But yes, I love Noomi Rapace. And maybe to May. Ask me after I return from Puerto Rico!

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