By Joanne Sargent
It might seem unlikely that a gangster flick might be set in a men’s clothing shop, but the idea for the film originated when the writers learned that the first electronic bug ever planted by the FBI was inside a tailor shop in Chicago in 1956.
The Outfit is their dramatized story of the tailor versus the mob.
Leonard, the aging British tailor, trained in Savile Row, London, and now has a shop in the heart of Chicago’s mobster turf. He makes suits for well-heeled gentlemen which means his clients include many local gangsters. Mob boss Roy Boyle is a customer as is his spoiled hothead son Richie and his henchman Francis, who both vie for their boss’ approval. Leonard cuts and sews in the back of his shop with his only regular companionship, young Mable, who acts as his secretary and assistant. He tends to fade into the woodwork but, to make peace with the mob, at some point he agreed to put a dropbox in the back of his shop. Intent on self-preservation, Leonard ignores or barely acknowledges the parade of shady characters who drop off mysterious packages into the dropbox.
An awkward equilibrium is maintained until one night the heat is turned up when Francis drags Richie into the shop with a gunshot wound and demands Leonard sew him up, telling him “you’re one of us now.” Francis also finds a package in the dropbox from The Outfit, a shadowy criminal organization now in Chi-town. The package includes a tape which, if it gets in the wrong hands, will take down the entire operation. Francis and Richie are agitated about their crosstown enemies and the possibility of a rat in their midst. Leonard finds himself caught in the middle of the gangland machinations and must puzzle out his path to surviving the night.
The Outfit is a twisty, enjoyable old-style gangster tale where the action occurs almost wholly in the tailor shop, with the tension compressed between the cramped walls. A well-plotted movie with quick-paced intrigue and double-crosses galore, it’ll keep you guessing.
The Outfit will run for 7 days starting Friday, May 27 until Thursday, June 2 at the Salmar Classic at 7:30 nightly.
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