BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
SEPTEMBER 24, 2010
Life is tough when you decide to step outside your routine. You end up losing 20 dollars out the window of a Formula 1 taxi driver’s cab and getting pegged as the local thief in a neighborhood where you have never been. You send a woman over the edge due to the fear of a body covered in burns, get trapped in a life-sized paper mache creation by a lonely woman looking for affection, and then Cheech and Chong capture you.
Does all of this sound like a wild dream? Well, it’s not. This laundry list of occurrences is the plot of Martin Scorsese’s 1985 release, “After Hours.” Griffin Dunne plays Paul Hackett; a word processor bored with his monotonous life. To venture outside his monotony, he accepts an invitation to travel across town and spend the night with a woman he met that night in a coffee shop. From there, Paul faces the strangest chain of events in history. Griffin Dunne is an excellent choice for the lead and carries the film as well as he possibly can on his own, delivering pitch-perfect reactions and bewilderment.
“After Hours” is a personal disaster film, not to be confused with an actual disaster film like “Twister” or “The Day After Tomorrow.” Instead, “After Hours” displays the worst night of Paul Hackett’s life, where one thing after another turns Hackett’s world upside down. Personal disaster films can be hard to allow the suspension of disbelief because in no way could this happen in reality. “After Hours” suffers greatly from this. Not all personal disaster films suffer, however, while movies like “Superbad,” “Trojan Wars,” and “The Hangover” were, for the most part, successful.
At this point, the film only succeeds in showing a glimpse of current actors when they were much younger. Katherine O’Hara and John Heard show off their off-beat nature long before “Home Alone.” Will Patton shows up in dominatrix gear, while Cheech and Chong live up to their stoner personas. Had the cast been a bunch of nobodies, the film would have worked even less, but with their inclusion, there is a small glimpse of light leading you through the tunnel that is “After Hours.”
“After Hours” was exciting and new for the period it came from, probably setting the stage for the personal disaster films to follow. But in all regards, the film is ineffective today. Though Griffin Dunne carries on through his terrible night with dignity and a sense of adventure, the events that transpire do little to inspire an audience or, even at times, make complete sense. The moral of the story is extremely difficult to attach yourself to, which insists that Paul Hackett never ventures away from his normality, which is dismal and unrelatable. Martin Scorsese delivers gorgeous scenery, fully capturing the grit of the New York streets, but with a lackluster story and overblown performances stemming from the ridiculousness of the situations, “After Hours” fails to live up to the rest of Scorsese’s anthology.
September 13, 1985
Joe Frank (story by)
Warner Bros. Pictures
(for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language)
Richard Cheech Marin
Robert F. Colesberry