Outfit is satisfying thriller, A Banquet and Desperate Hour both miss the mark

There are many subtle moving parts in Graham Moore's The Outfit. Taking place in Chicago in the mid 1950s, the film's central character is Leonard (Mark Rylance), a mild-mannered cutter — not a tailor — who quietly goes about his business, taking great pride in his custom-made suits for his well-heeled clientele. Unfortunately, the price of doing business is dealing with the local mob, who line his pockets for his fine work but require he keep a locked box in his shop where nefarious types can make cash drops that are collected weekly.

This becomes the source of great trouble once an ominous package is discovered there; of greater concern is when a pair of the local boss' outfit show up shot and in need of help. Moore keeps things moving briskly, the film propelled by its many smart twists and clever double-crosses. Needless to say, there's much more to Leonard than meets the eye, the ever-mounting tension of a situation that spins out of control forcing him to utilize skills he hasn't used in quite some time. Outfit grips you from the start and rewards the viewer with a satisfying mystery-thriller. In theaters.

Banquet is underdone

Ruth Paxton's A Banquet is the sort of film you admire more than enjoy. Holly (Sienna Guillory), a widowed mother with two teen daughters, has taken significant steps towards reconstructing her life. However, her progress is sidetracked when her eldest, Betsey (Jessica Alexander), claims her body is no longer her own, but a vessel to a higher power. Holly's alarmed when her daughter refuses to eat, having gone weeks on end without consuming anything. She's more alarmed when, despite this, it's revealed the girl hasn't lost any weight.

There's a good idea here, but Paxton and screenwriter Justin Bull fail to develop the premise to any conclusive end. Yes, I know ambiguity can be a powerful narrative approach, but I got the impression that writer's block was more at play than clever omission. The film's deliberate pacing certainly doesn't help, Banquet ultimately revealing itself to be an undercooked concoction that overstays its welcome, sporting a conclusion that ultimately isn't worth the time invested. Available through Amazon Video-on-Demand.

Hour a noble misfire

To be sure, Phillip Noyce's The Desperate Hour is a film with plenty of faults, but I don't think it deserves the vicious bashing it's been getting from my peers. Many have objected to its subject matter – a school shooting by a troubled teen is the event that drives the movie — some saying it's too soon for this issue to be used as fodder for a dramatic film. I think they're missing the point, because it looks at these tragedies through another lens, that of a mother who comes to think her own son may be the perpetrator, and goes out of her way to find out for sure.

The plot is a bit contrived as Amy (Watts) is out for her morning run in a remote area when she catches wind of what's afoot on her cellphone. Too far out to return promptly, she makes a frantic sprint for home, on her phone constantly trying to get information from the authorities as well as reaching out to her son (Colton Gobbo), who's a student at the school in question. Yes, there are a few plot holes that don't hold water, yet Watts' fierce performance and the film's plea for more mental health services for teens makes Desperate an earnest effort that needed a rewrite or two. Available through Video-on-Demand.