Last Night In Soho (2021)
Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Matt Smith
By Tim Basaraba
Edgar Wright can do no wrong. From cult classics like Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World to the underrated gems like Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, everything Mr. Wright makes earns universal admiration. That includes 2017’s Baby Driver, his last film before shifting gears and making the mysterious Last Night In Soho. Although Baby Driver lacked the comedic flair of Wright’s previous films, the stylized action sequences more than made up for it. Could his latest creation – one which vacillates between contemporary and sixties Soho – contain the humor that helped Wright’s past films shine? Or would he need a new trick to stay in the good graces of film going audiences?
Spoiler Alert: Last Night in Soho isn’t funny. And maybe it’s not supposed to be, but it’s also overwrought, leaning heavily into highly emotional subject matter with none of the cathartic vengeance that makes other films in the “thriller” genre satisfying.
Last Night’s lead is played by the talented Thomasin McKenzie, who wowed me in Leave No Trace (2018) and was a big reason why JoJo Rabbit (2019) worked so well. (She was the “girl in the wall” who made a man out of Jojo!) Unfortunately, her role here offers her character zero reprieve from psychological pain. Not once do we see the subtle joy that peeks out through her smile, as in her previous roles. Ms. McKenzie’s 60’s counterpart is played by Anya Taylor-Joy who excels as a sex symbol of that swingin’ era, but not much more. This seems like a huge waste considering her range. (Just watch films like The Witch (2015), Thoroughbreds (2017), Emma (2020) or Split (2016).
The rest of the cast is interesting, especially the recently-deceased Diana Rigg (best known by this generation as Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones). Another standout is creepy Terence Stamp known simply as “the Silver Haired Gentleman.”
Instead of the humor and the hyper-cool car chases that made Wright’s previous films special, here he leans into horror and supernatural tropes that don’t seem to fit his artistic sensibilities. In fact, it all seems a bit forced, and not in a “let’s lean into this genre” way. It’s more of a “I don’t know what I’m doing, but maybe it’ll work” kind of way. The period piece sections of the film look great and the lone musical number is splendid, but that’s not enough to pull Last Night In Soho out of its dark and dreary mess. I guess I was wrong to say that Mr. Wright can do no wrong.
If Edgar Wright classics such as Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are A’s, and underrated gems like Hot Fuzz and The World’s End are B’s, then Last Night in Soho is a C-.