Last Night in Soho

Last Night in Soho ★★★

And now for another episode of ‘everyone else is wrong and Jake is right’ 

I’m about as devoted an Edgar Wright acolyte as you can find. From the get-go, back when this was first announced, I was thrilled beyond reasonable measure. Edgar Wright? Horror? Chung Hoon Chung shooting? Anya Taylor Joy? Fuck! I mean what could possibly go wrong? 

Needless to say, I was more than off-put by the ever-snide and impossibly obnoxious film Twitter vulgar-auteurist-adjacent crowd that has been saying this movie ‘looked bad’ for months now. I was ready to prove this crowd wrong, and in many respects I still am, but I was determined to give this a fair shake after mixed reception polluted the waters and inevitably made this a movie that is going to be utterly insufferable to hear anyone other than the ten people I know who aren’t total psychopaths talk about it.

All this to say, I can’t lie and say Last Night in Soho isn’t a little disappointing, and that’s definitely not entirely the movie’s fault. It’s such a salivating combination that maybe my expectations were just far too high, or maybe this particular film plays to Wright’s sensibilities that I specifically don’t care for (I am the rare idiot who adores Baby Driver)- but regardless, it ends up being something that feels somewhat awkward. While I have *no* idea what most people are talking about when they talk about a convoluted script and ‘questionable’ choices, I think the film is definitely uneven. If anything, I found it to get better as it went along because Wright gets more adventurous with filmmaking… which is kind of an issue. When it comes to the technical work, I found it to be far too even tempered and frankly, occasionally anonymous. None of it is bad, but after Hot Fuzz and Baby Driver, I expect a certain degree of quality that felt largely divorced from this. I don’t know if Wright is holding back his style in order to suit the more serious horror ‘tone’ or ‘atmosphere’- but his trademark snappy editing and energized camerawork are only here occasionally. The ‘horror’ is occasionally evocative and effective, mostly when he leans into the esoteric, phantasmagoric, uncanny imagery that he goes all in on when it comes to formalism. That said, it’s a shame that the remainder of the horror is so pedestrian and largely just… not scary? The brunt of my negativity towards it comes from the fact that I think the script just isn’t as sharp as the rest of his work, and honestly? It could skirt by on technical acumen. Instead it’s kind of a diluted version of his two strongest directorial trademarks. It’s watered down, when it should be formally assaultive. And to those who found the script confusing or convoluted… what? Why? It’s a perfectly legible story with no grey areas! And that’s… my problem! I wanted more hazy psychedelic horror, more challenging narrative thrusts, instead this is just kinda.. tame. It’s like Edgar Wright’s ‘Repulsion’- except if the script was written by someone else.

That said, the fundamentals here are all good and solid. There are almost as many moments that hit home runs, mostly when the work in question is in-camera. MacKenzie anchors the whole movie in a stellar lead performance, as does Joy, and everyone else is perfectly slotted into their roles. It’s brisk and contains a decently compelling mystery that has enough pulp and fun to be enjoyable, and enough decent scary ideas to keep some of its more awkward or unflattering moments in the background. Honestly, I just think Wright went about this all wrong. It’s a good, solid, enjoyable (if awkward) movie, but it feels as if he’s trying to root his fundamentals into something so solid that it ends up weighing the movie down. Be different! Be weird! Be challenging! 

By my measure, Wright’s weakest effort. Who knows, I could warm to it again on rewatch, but my reaction is unfortunately lukewarm. Regardless, I look forward to never hearing the end of how supposedly awful this movie is on Twitter! Haha! Love being online when perfectly fine movies become the scourge of discourse that makes me wanna gouge my own eyes out!

Oh yeah, and Anya Taylor Joy can step on me.

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