If you are a devotee of time travel...

Sunday, October 9, 2022

The Outfit: Cut Just Brilliantly

If you'd like a 2022 movie on Amazon Prime that takes place in the 1950s in one indoor place -- a tailor's shop in Chicago -- starts off slowly and builds up to one of the best series of twists and turns that I've ever seen in a few hours on the screen, check out The Outfit.

[Some spoilers ahead ... ]

Here's the set-up:  Leonard is a British tailor, with a love of his craft, in Chicago -- but he'll correct you if you call him a tailor, he's a "cutter" -- and Mable sits at the front desk of the shop.  The local mob uses his shop as a dropbox for its illicit cash.   The action starts up when the mob boss's son shows up with a bullet in his belly, accompanied by his gunman, Francis.

From that point on, what begins as almost a PBS documentary on tailoring in the 1950s, progresses to an edge-of-your-sear taut thriller of a movie, with major characters turning out to be not who you were given to believe they were, and surprise upon surprise emerging faster and faster until you're left mouth agape at the end, simultaneously stunned and realizing yes, it all made sense, after all.

Two points about the plot, one which turns out not be a criticism, the other a slight criticism:

1.  A crucial part of the story is a small, portable reel-to-reel tape recorder.  I did some doo-wop recording with my Bronx group, the Transits, in the early 1960s, and had been thinking all these years that the tape recorder we used, at Paul Gorman's house (our bass singer) off Allerton Avenue, was a new invention.  The Outfit takes place in 1956, so I was a little skeptical that even the FBI would have had one back then, but I did a little research and it turns out they were in use since the early 1950s. Creds to the producers of the movie, who must have done some research, too.

2. There was a least one crucial case in which someone whom we thought was shot dead, not only survived but was soon back in action.  But, ok, lots of movies and TV shows do this kind of thing, and it was the only thing that didn't ring true to me in an otherwise precisely cut story. (And I've also said many times that, unless you see a character's head literally blown apart or chopped off or shot through and through, there's always a chance you'll see him or her up and about, if usually at a somewhat later time.)

The acting was also excellent.  Mark Rylance, whose acting in lots of historical and contemporary dramas was superb, is better than ever as Leonard in The Outfit.  And relative newcomers (to me) Johnny Flynn as Franics  (he did a good job as Ian Fleming in Operation Mincemeat last year)  and Zoey Deutch as Mable (I know, that name is usually spelled Mabel, and I have no idea why they went with that spelling here here) were also memorable.

So hats off to Graham Moore who directed and co-wrote (with Johnathan McClain) this exceptional movie. My wife commented that it felt like a play, because it all took place in a couple of rooms, with the exception of a few establishing shots from the outside of the shop. It's billed as a thriller, and you might be tempted to cut your losses and look elsewhere for excitement after the first ten minutes. But, trust me, stay with with it, you won't be disappointed.

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