Directed by Martin Scorsese, 1985, USA, 96 minutes, M 15+
Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) is stuck in a dead end job and feels his life is going nowhere. After a chance meeting with a beautiful young girl Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) he calls her up and goes on a date. To say things go wrong is an understatement; after the disastrous date the distraught Hackett just wants to get home but finds every avenue to get there is blocked. “I just wanted to leave my apartment, maybe meet a nice girl and now I’ve got to die for it?”
The only way for Martin Scorsese was down; having given us arguably some of the finest films ever made with Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull he had at last been given a chance to direct his long cherished dream project The Last Temptation of Christ. A big budget epic, the devout Catholic director was distraught when the film fell through at the last minute. Needing to get back to his roots he wanted to make a low budget film back in his hometown of New York and looked back at a script he was offered by Griffin Dunne and producer Amy Robinson, After Hours.
The film benefits from these relatively low budget trappings; only shot at night this delirious black comedy is a succession of excruciating events as our hapless hero desperately tries to get to the other side of town. Scorsese’s direction is extraordinary, his camera flies in every direction, the nervous energy as he pushes his actors and crew to the edge is apparent in every frame. The films calling card shot, as a set of keys are thrown from a tall building down to Dunne is still breathtaking in its ingenuity.
The films trump card, however, is Griffin Dunne who gives a wonderful performance as Hackett. A veteran of such cult classics as An American Werewolf in London his career never really built on, unfortunately he will be better known by younger readers as Madonna’s romantic foil in the dreadful Who’s that Girl? He has since had a successful career as the director of Practical Magic and Addicted to Love
The rest of the cast including Rosanna Arquette, Teri Garr, Linda Fiorentino, John Heard and Cheech and Chong all play excellent cameos as they all contribute to our hero’s nocturnal nightmare. Even Roger Corman regular Dick Miller makes an appearance as a homage to the man who first gave Scorsese work.
After Hours falls in a strange place in Scorsese’s oeuvre of work; more King of Comedy than Raging Bull it shows a very weird and dark side of New York and benefits from its wilfully obscure view of the directors beloved city.
Warners excellent Region 1 disc features an excellent featurette called Filming For Your Life featuring new interview with Dunne and Macdonald. Dunne recalls how he auditioned for the part of an eleven year old in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore aged eighteen, failed completely but got a chance to chat to the great man. You also get a great running commentary by the director, star and producer, a nice selection of deleted scenes and a trailer.