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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 14.04%
Average: 3.51%
Pretty Bad: 3.51%
Total Crap: 7.02%

3 reviews, 39 user ratings

After Hours
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by Collin Souter

"In Scorsese's one-night wild odyssey, there's still no place like home."
5 stars

“After Hours” may very well be my all-time favorite Martin Scorsese movie. Now, is it as gut-wrenching as “Taxi Diver”? No. Is it as brilliant and audacious as “The Last Temptation of Christ”? No. Is it as celebrated and quoted as the ingenious “GoodFellas”? No. It exists merely as a favorite for the simplest of reasons: It opened up another layer of appreciation for film in my life. At the age of 13 in 1985, I had never seen anything by Scorsese. In my mind, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas existed as the pinnacle, the towering standard against which all cinematic art should be measured. As it goes with most pimply, movie-loving 13-year-olds, I didn’t know diddly-squat (Some say I still don’t).

“After Hours,” along with many other sophisticated comedies of that year, changed all that. I rented it without knowing much about it aside from its at-the-time great cast (Rosanna Arquette, Teri Garr, Griffin Dunne and Cheech and Chong) and its critical acclaim. Some had described it as a “Twilight Zone” for Yuppies. Warner Brothers didn’t advertise the movie that much and as of this writing, it has yet to receive a DVD release. In spite of its accolades, it didn’t receive much enthusiasm from the American public either. “After Hours” alerted me to the idea that maybe the American movie-going public didn’t have as much brainpower as I had once imagined. After I watched it, I immediately wanted to watch it again.

This black comedy opens with a fast tracking shot inside a drab corporate office. Here, we meet Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) who looks absolutely bored with his Yuppie existence. He trains a young worker (an up-and-coming Bronson Pinchot) to be a word processor while looking around at his own dull surroundings. One night, Paul goes out to a coffee shop to read a book (Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer”) and get away from it all. One of the other patrons, Marcy (Rosanna Arquette), notices his taste in literature and introduces herself by quoting from it. Marcy then tells Paul about her roommate who makes plaster of Paris Bagel-and-cream-cheese paperweights.

Paul uses this as an excuse to give Marcy a call later that night (he wants to buy one). He takes a cab to the fashionable So-Ho district of Manhattan. In the cab on the way down, his only $20 bill flies out the window. To make matters worse, his date with Marcy doesn’t go well. They go to a coffee shop where she tells him a creepy story about her ex-husband who liked to quote “The Wizard of Oz” during sex. Paul also discovers Marcy’s strange mood swings as well as a huge textbook in her room about skin diseases and burns. Paul freaks out and ditches her, as well as her weird sculpture artist roommate, Kiki (Linda Fiorintino).

Of course, it rains mercilessly outside. Paul learns that the change in his pocket will not buy him a subway ride home since the fares just went up to $1.50 as of midnight. Paul is 50 cents short. He goes to a bar and meets Tom (John Heard), the bartender who would gladly help Paul get home, if only Tom could open the cash register. Tom gives Paul the keys to his apartment so Paul can get the register key. Of course, there have been a series of robberies in the neighborhood and Paul looks as though he may be a key suspect to the neighborhood watchmen on patrol.

From here, things get more and more complicated and to try and explain all of it so it makes sense will make this review much longer than it needs to be. “Different rules apply when it gets this late,” we learn early on (from Dick Miller). “It’s, you know, after hours.” Thus, a string of eccentric characters start springing up on Paul making it more and more difficult for him to get home. One of Tom’s cocktail waitresses, Julie (Teri Garr), invites Paul to her apartment so as to get him out of the rain. She has a 1965 beehive hairdo and little mousetraps surrounding her bed.

Paul also has a run-in with two thieves, Neil and Peppy (Cheech and Chong, who receive separate billings in this movie), one of whom has an appreciation for Kiki’s art (“Oh, come on man, a stereo’s a stereo. Art is forever”). Kiki’s statue, a plaster of Paris 3-dimantional version of the Edward Munch painting “The Scream,” just happens to have a $20 bill stuck to it, which Paul knows about and tries to steal so he can get a cab and go home. I may have lost you there, but again, this movie has to be seen in order for it to be fully appreciated and comprehended. It takes a while to explain the story, because the movie itself takes a while to unfold.

I had a film teacher many years ago who showed “After Hours” to his class, many of whom had never heard of it. He had a theory about it, parts of which hold water. He claimed the movie to be sort of an update on “The Wizard of Oz,” seeing as how Paul’s whole quest is to get back home to his nice, quiet, boring life. Or it may just be a minor coincidence that almost every female character wears something yellow. He also theorized that the entire ordeal had been planned from the beginning, that because “After Hours” takes place in So-Ho, all the characters must be eccentric artists who want to put the boring conformists of the world through an horrific night on the town (Remember, “Art is forever.”)

The idea of every character being in on the joke doesn’t quite hold water with me, especially since the original screenplay of “After Hours” had Paul being taken to a violent crime-filled underworld to be killed. If you watched to movie with the “conspiracy theory” in mind, you might be able to find some weight to it. There does exist some pretty heavy coincidences in Joseph Minion’s screenplay. But I find that just the agony through which Paul must go in order to just get 50-cents has enough entertainment value. It may be an interesting theory, but I just don’t buy into it.

I had never seen a movie quite like “After Hours” in my early teenage years although I did see a couple rip-offs later on (“Vamp,” “Adventures In Babysitting”). The movie opened up the technical aspects of film to me. What a joy it is to see a camera move around as though Scorsese considered it his dance partner. Thelma Shoonmaker’s editing also taught me about how a simple act, such as the exchanging of a set of keys, can have the impact of a loud gunshot. And Howard Shore’s music demonstrated how a score could be used to mimic one’s strange predicament as well as add a sense of dread to the environment. His use of looped clock sounds has a sinister wit and charm about it.

Many movies in 1985 expanded my movie-going horizons. Albert Brooks’ “Lost In America,” which sounded to me like the most natural conversations I’ve ever heard in a movie before. Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” the first Woody Allen movie I had ever seen, taught me that one could make a great fantasy movie without using special effects. Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” to this day, continues to teach me (Again, look at those beautiful camera moves).

But “After Hours” came first. When I watched it in that classroom, it had been the first time I had ever watched it with a bunch of people. It got huge laughs where I had never laughed before and, as a result, the movie felt bigger and better than I had remembered it. Some movies made in the ‘80s (and which take place in the ‘80s) don’t quite hold up as well today because they feel too dated. Different rules apply for one of Scorsese’s least-celebrated masterpieces. His art is forever.

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originally posted: 06/24/02 07:55:57
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User Comments

11/17/17 morris campbell boring imho 1 stars
5/23/15 stanley welles clever, imaginative and funny 5 stars
1/12/10 TravisN One of my favorites. 5 stars
4/03/09 Dane Youssef One of a kind. A mixture of all genres which plays like a dream... a surrealist nightmare. 5 stars
12/28/06 Agent Sands It's a darker, longer, more violent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. 5 stars
12/05/05 Gene Carmean A fantasitic film.. great!!!!!! 5 stars
2/11/05 Jeff Anderson A brilliant & surreal comic nightmare from a great filmmaker! GRIFFIN DUNNE IS TERRIFIC! 5 stars
12/27/04 mjoc Great comedy from Scorsese. Dark and bizarre. 5 stars
9/13/04 JustcallmeRo i laughed outloud , while looking like this O.O Do not push pause; hold it in! 5 stars
7/31/04 Stan My favourite film of all time 5 stars
7/27/04 MyGreenBed One of the great comedies in movie history (with Raising Arizona + Take The Money And Run). 5 stars
5/17/04 Dingleburt HamsterPink Chanaka Doesn't Understand Film 5 stars
2/22/04 james chanaka Worst acting I have ever seen. Crappy movie as well. 1 stars
11/19/03 sadie the writing is brilliant 5 stars
10/28/03 Gary Hyatt Yes,,,When is the DVD being released??!!! 5 stars
9/19/03 Daysie222 I've watched this movie at least thirty times for the random one liners. Dazzling. 5 stars
7/17/03 MadMatt How can you NOT like this movie? 4 stars
4/18/03 William Yochum My all-time favorite dark comedy. *** WHEN GET I BUY THE DVD ??? 5 stars
4/11/03 Fredo Viola Script: Kafka homage; Film-making: Scorcese at his lyrical best! 5 stars
2/02/03 Mark Kenville Slow paced. Uninteresting, no matter what my brother-in-law says. 3 stars
2/01/03 irtlxub Most entertaining 94 minutes on film 5 stars
1/22/03 Pinkline Jones Charles Tatum needs jumper leads! Brilliant film. 5 stars
1/15/03 Jack Sommersby Smooth but ultimately pointless. 2 stars
1/15/03 y2mckay Far from Scorsese's best, but not bad. The full body cast bit was amusing 3 stars
12/14/02 Zoe Trope I wrote my thesis on the neuroses that prevails. Fucking brilliant, the movie, that is. 5 stars
11/29/02 Charles Tatum I was bored to death, as funny as "Casino" 1 stars
11/07/02 Matti Nikander Absolutely funny story! 5 stars
7/15/02 Christopher Attrill The yuppie nightmare movie to end all yuppie nightmare movies 5 stars
6/29/02 Jim Camus meets "Assault on Precinct 13." I want it on DVD! 5 stars
9/16/01 R.W. Welch Improbable but often amusing black comedy with solid performances 4 stars
9/10/01 mattski not so much a story as a collection of experiences, v. good 5 stars
4/08/01 lil kim killa westside! 1 stars
4/06/01 Ray McCoy "If you're so drawn to it, why don't you force your way in" 5 stars
10/25/99 Danny Dean A humorously dark comedy, Dunne is perfectly cast and Scorsese is greater than ever! 5 stars
10/04/99 Dirty Bird Teri, Rosanna, Catherine & Co. make Scorsese's work look like a snapshot of the Apple. 5 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg I'm surprised to say this, but this is really a FUNNY FUCKIN' MOVIE. 5 stars
6/28/99 Ricardo Be in New York without buying a flight ticket 5 stars
4/09/99 James E. Laczkowski a comedic masterpiece that combines Marx Brothers with noir. Delightfully eccentric! 5 stars
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  02-Feb-1986 (R)
  DVD: 17-Aug-2004


  02-Jul-1986 (MA)

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