After Hours

(US, 1985)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Review by Angus Luff

After Hours is a 1985 comedy thriller written by Joseph Minion and directed by Martin Scorsese. The film follows a mundane word processor, Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), as he goes out for a late-night date with Mary (Rosanna Arquette), whom he met that day. However, the date doesn’t go as planned; he gets creeped out and tries to go back to his apartment but fails. A downward spiral of dark paths, colourful characters, unfortunate occurrences and an angry mob waylay Paul as he attempts to get home.

Scorsese, known for creating brilliantly gritty and violent New York-themed films, challenges and dismantles that genre in this darkly hilarious spin on New York nightlife. It plays like a mixture of Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy – it has the same texture of dark New York streets as Taxi and the same sense of uncomfortable humour as King. Yet it plays around with those ideologies to create its own genre; the stressful, messed up, late night, 1980s New York farce. If you love films that delve into utter madness and confusion, that march along without any time to stop, this is the film for you. Although I would have to put a content warning on this film, as there’s at least a few moments of unexpected, uncomfortable and shocking subject matter, as a result of its sense of humour.

Even though this film contains some haunting, stressful and creepy material, After Hours is first and foremost a comedy – its humour is what makes the film so original. Dunne’s performance is subtly hilarious. He never outright plays it as a jerk, a loser, a wimp or a nice guy, he sort of melds all those elements into one character. Scorsese and Minion set up this character so you relate to and root for him in the opening but find yourself getting enjoyment at his expense as the film goes along. Each facet of his personality gets challenged and whittled away one by one, until he’s left with who he truly is: a nobody. The dark humour of seeing this normal, everyday schmuck get what’s coming to him feels so good in a sea of movies where overly bad people get punished. The fact that so much bad happens to this mostly innocent man and the people around him is where much of the dark, sardonic humour comes from. Also, the way the film portrays the nightlife of New York City feels so rich and impactful, with the score from Howard Shore adding to the atmosphere of this stressful nightmare.

There’s something about films like After Hours that gets me excited. I think more films should take chances, get unpredictable and weirder, because not knowing where a film is going to go next is such an exciting and new adventure the way Scorsese does it. There’s plenty to praise the guy for, but I think more people should recognize his ability to shake you up and throw you out of your comfort zone. When this film ends, you’ve been through so many detours and forks in the road with Paul that you feel just as jaded and tired as he is. It’s such a well-crafted, insane adventure of a film that you can’t help but immediately tell everyone you know to go see it.

Running time: 97 minutes

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Angus Luff is a student at Glebe Collegiate. He grew up in the Glebe and is obsessed with movies.

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