AFTER HOURS

(1985)
With Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, Catherine O'Hara, Verna Bloom, John Heard, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Reviewed by JB

     A dark comedy that comes off more as a nightmare, AFTER HOURS is an inventive, involving movie that still falls short of being the classic it could have been.  Martin Scorsese obviously connected with the material, especially with its theme of one man being punished for some unknown sin, but instead of directing it like a comedy, he approaches it as a thriller.  The potential gags are played down and the psychotic, paranoid and claustrophobic aspects of the screenplay are played up. 

     The story is about a New York City office worker (Griffin Dunne) who meets a beautiful girl (Rosanna Arquette) at a coffee shop and hooks up with her later that night in her downtown Soho loft. When the date goes bad, Dunne cuts it short and attempts to head back uptown to his apartment, but finds he cannot. AFTER HOURS is a skewed version of THE WIZARD OF OZ, a film referenced early in the dialogue, with some Kafka thrown into the mix (The Castle).  The people Dunne meets in his travels are nearly as strange as those Dorothy meets on hers.  They include a quartet of beautiful blondes - the off-kilter Arquette (is she ever any other way?), a retro dumb blonde waitress (Teri Garr), an aggressive ice-cream vendor (Catherine O'Hara), and a lonely artist (Verna Bloom).  Nearly every person he meets changes the course of his night one way or another, and always in a negative way.  Setting out simply to have a one-night stand with a random stranger, Dunne winds up being the catalyst for a suicide, witnessing a murder, and being chased down the streets of New York by a vigilante mob who have mistaken him for a local burglar.

     Although Paul Hacket, the lead character in AFTER HOURS, is Griffin Dunne's signature role, he never makes the character as funny or as sympathetic as he can be, and one wonders what another actor, such as Gene Wilder, could have done with the role.  The movie itself could have been funnier, if less stylish, in the hands of a comedy director rather than Scorsese, whose direction is more like that of a film noir or Hitchcock "wrong man on the run" film" than a comedy.

     Nevertheless, once it gets going, AFTER HOURS pulls you in, with its mad twists and turns and its unlikely coincidences that one must simply chalk up to fate.  Unfortunately, the film doesn't really kick into high gear for the first 35 minutes.  Despite the talents of Dunne and Arquette, the initial hookup scene goes on interminably and is hampered by too much talk of rape and too many obscure allusions to burn victims, allusions which never really come into play during the movie.  Ironically, it is not until a character dies that AFTER HOURS springs to life.  3½ - JB

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