Blu-ray Review: Last Night in Soho

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright | CAST: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao
RELEASE DATE: Jan. 18, 2022 | PRICE: DVD $17.96, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $22.96, 4K UHD $29.99
BONUSES: commentaries, featurettes, animatics, deleted scenes, more
SPECS: R | 114 min. | Mystery horror drama | 2.39:1 | Dolby Atmos

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

2021 was going to be the year of Edgar Wright. The cheeky British filmmaker behind such cult favorites as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World and the American hit Baby Driver had two movies slated for release: the documentary about the iconoclastic band The Sparks Brothers and the retro thriller Last Night in Soho.

The Sparks Brothers, released in the U.S. in June, drew kudos across the board even from people who never heard of the siblings Ron and Russell Mael. But when Last Night in Soho was issued in theaters to a Covid-cautious public, reviews were mixed and box-office was less than impressive.

It’s a shame because Last Night in Soho is a striking work, a complex, lush, style-gushing suspenser that showcases some of the filmmakers’ essential influences, including the dark cinematic trickery of Brian DePalma, the swinging British cinema of the 1960s and the Italian giallo films of the 1970s. Of course, there’s always room for giallo.

Thomasin McKenzie (The Power of the Dog) plays Eloise, a naïve, wannabe fashion designer who leaves her town in England to attend classes in London. She imagines it’s the late 1960s, when the British Invasion was in full swing and Carnaby Street was really happening.  She begins to imagine a world where a blonde bombshell singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit) is forced by a manipulative manager (Matt Smith, Dr. Who) to have sex with sleazy men to further her career. Soon, Eloise isn’t sure if what’s happening is real or part of her imagination , just as she begins to act and think as if she’s back in the 1960s, witnessing and even living the with the fear that surrounds Sandie.

Last Night in Soho gets a bit confusing at times and Wright overextends himself, eventually wearing out his welcome when all is said and done. But there’s so much to appreciate here that one  excuses the director for his over-the-top approach to the material—he clearly has deep affection for the material as he makes stylistic nods to the work of Hitchcock, Polanski and Michael Powell. Helping to capture the vibe of the film’s dark, dangerous and exciting London setting is expert art direction and costume design, a sublime soundtrack that includes Cilia Black, Dusty Springfield, The Kinks and The Searchers and the appearances of Brit acting icons Terence Stamp, Rita Tushingham and Diana Rigg (in her last performance), who pop up intermittently to add even more seasoning to the pop culture-savvy proceedings.

Both female leads are impressive: McKenzie is charismatic as the novice who considers taking a trip on the wild side not knowing where it will lead, while Taylor-Joy oozes unfiltered sexuality to go with her dark, tortured side. The actress’s performance of an a capella version of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” is a haunting attention-getter, much like Last Night in Soho itself.

Buy or Rent Last Night in Soho

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.