Combustible Celluloid Review - After Hours (1985), Joseph Minion, Martin Scorsese, Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, Catherine O'Hara, Verna Bloom, Thomas Chong, Cheech Marin, John Heard, Dick Miller, Victor Argo
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With: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, Catherine O'Hara, Verna Bloom, Thomas Chong, Cheech Marin, John Heard, Dick Miller, Victor Argo
Written by: Joseph Minion
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
MPAA Rating: R for gory horror violence and language
Running Time: 97
Date: 09/12/1985

After Hours (1985)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Late, Late Show

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Although he's considered the greatest living film director, it's unlikely that Martin Scorsese will ever be known for his sense of humor. Probably the funniest scene he ever put together involves Joe Pesci asking, "Ya think I'm funny?" Even the ironically titled The King of Comedy (1983) is more disturbing than hilarious. So what should we make of his only pure comedy, After Hours (1985)? It helps to learn that when Joseph Minion's screenplay originally made the rounds, many readers couldn't finish it, giving up from tension headaches. Star Griffin Dunne read the script standing up so that he could pace around between pages.

Scorsese came to the film during a dark part of his life. His The Last Temptation of Christ had fallen through (only to be revived a few years later), and he was on the verge of quitting. He chose After Hours as a "small" project with which to charge his batteries. If it didn't work, we might have lost him. Fortunately, it did and still does. I've seen After Hours several times, and some of those times I have walked away from it hating it for its cruelty. But really I love it for its unrelenting inventiveness, its constant motion and its curmudgeonly glass-half-empty outlook. After Hours marked the first time that Scorsese worked with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who had proven himself several times over working for madman Rainer Werner Fassbinder. So he was more than up to the task of making this sinister, sickening film that never lets go.

Dunne plays Paul Hackett, a word-processor who ventures out into the night and meets a beautiful woman, Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). She invites him back to the flat she shares with her artist roommate, Kiki (Linda Fiorentino). Their "date" turns out awkwardly and Paul decides to go home. But he's lost all his money out a taxicab window and subway fares have gone up -- just this night -- so he's shy the fare. A horrible comedy of errors follows, involving Paul's lost keys, a suicide, a papier-mâché sculpture, an angry mob, a couple of thieves, and a clingy waitress with a 60s-era beehive hairdo. It ends, not with any kind of vindication or revelation, but with a perfectly placed "screw you, pal." Nonetheless, After Hours has its sweet moments too. One of my all time favorite moments in any movie comes when Paul and Marcy are enjoying a coffee in a diner. Paul asks for the check and the waiter (the great Dick Miller) tells him it's on the house. "Different rules apply when it gets this late," he says.

If you understand what he means, then After Hours is the film for you.

Warner Home Video's DVD release comes with a scene-select commentary track, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a trailer and deleted scenes. I've never seen this film on the big screen, and it's always seemed like a perfect small-screen film to me. So this DVD is most welcome.

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