After Hours (1985)

21 Sep


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

When I first heard the premise for Martin Scorsese’s comedy “After Hours,” I didn’t think much of it. An uptight workaholic has the craziest night of his life? Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many movies, but I kind of thought it wouldn’t be anything special, because I didn’t think there would be enough creativity or enough courage to really go all out and make it something unforgettable. In other words, I thought it would be relatively safe and I wouldn’t care much about it. But boy, was I wrong. “After Hours” is not only original and funny, but it is also unrelenting, unafraid, riveting, and best of all, unpredictable. This is a great film—one that had me hooked from the start of the mayhem to the end, and that couldn’t make me even begin to guess what was going to happen one minute to the next.

Why tonight? Why did all of this have to happen to him tonight? Why is he in one mess after another? Why can’t he just catch a break and call it a night? Why can’t he just go home? When will this ever end? Those are the exact questions that ordinary, uptight word-processor Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) asks himself as he takes a cab to SoHo, Manhattan, on a night that starts out as an interesting date with a beautiful woman and transforms into a nightmare that he cannot escape from. It all begins as he meets said-woman, knockout Marcy (Rosanna Arquette), in a café. They strike up a conversation, she gives him her phone number, and as soon as he gets back to his apartment, he immediately calls her up and asks her for a date.

Big mistake. Now, I’ll only reveal just the beginnings of this “wild night” that Paul finds himself in the middle of, because trust me, I want you to be as surprised as I am so that you’ll enjoy the film more. (I’m doing you a favor, trust me.) Paul takes a cab to SoHo, but the ride is so violent that it causes all of Paul’s money to fly out the window. A frustrating start, but no matter. Paul has a date with a beautiful woman and is even roped into giving her sculptress roommate (Linda Fiorentino) a massage after she finishes up a sculpture that looks like a man calling for help. (Very effective foreshadowing aspect here.)

Not enough for you? Of course it isn’t. How could it be? It sounds relatively harmless so far. It’s only keeping me interested so far because I can relate to this guy’s confusion—losing his money, just wanting to move forward with his date, etc. Then, they go to a diner and Paul finds that Marcie is not exactly date-material; he doesn’t like her very much. So he bolts. He wants to catch a subway train home and he only has 97 cents. Not a problem, right? He can just forget all about it.

Wrong. The fare went up and he can’t get a token for the train. He’s stuck there in the SoHo district with no money and no reason to be there. What else could go wrong? You name it. The whole rest of the night only gets worse and worse and worse, in a series of confusion, misunderstandings, violence, craziness that later leads to a huge misunderstanding, a death, and an angry mob.

“I mean, I just wanted to leave my apartment, maybe meet a nice girl. And now I’ve gotta DIE for it?!”

“After Hours” is a hard-edged comedy-thriller with a lot going on, and all of it very original and with a very clever blend of humor and horror. It’s an urban nightmare that never seems to end, as Paul tries to find some way to get himself out of this mess and back home. And being a Scorsese-directed film, you also expect the film to be very well-made, and it is. Scorsese uses all kinds of camera shots to get each point across and also to add to the agitation that the main character is going through. And it’s obvious that Scorsese, as evidenced in some of his other films, has a great eye for big cities—the SoHo district seems like a character of itself. The film is also very cleverly-edited—for example, there’s a scene in which Paul finds himself in yet another messy situation, and after an important line is delivered, suddenly there’s the sound of a mousetrap snap (mousetraps are set all around the windows of a certain character’s apartment). Paul is the mouse. He was curious, and now he’s trapped.

But wait, you may ask. How can I possibly reveal so little of the story for “After Hours,” when I said in the first paragraph that just hearing the premise wasn’t enough to impress me, and so how are you supposed to be impressed? Well, that is kind of tricky, I’ll admit—it took a risk for me to have to do that. My only hope is that you’ll take a chance on the film, as I did, and maybe you’ll be surprised by what it has to offer. It’s a scary, funny, wild ride that I was glad to have taken. I loved every minute of “After Hours.” Take that for what it’s worth.

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