Martin Scorsese (“Taxi Driver”) takes a devilish funny turn in “After Hours,” which centers on one man’s nightmarish journey in Soho.
Of all of Scorsese’s films, this one remains the least known and most offbeat.
Paul Hackett, who is wonderfully played by Griffin Dunne, (“An American Werewolf in London”) has a boring job as a “word processor.” He is desperately waiting for something interesting to happen, or maybe to meet the right girl.
A trip out to eat leads to a chance encounter with a young woman named Marcy Franklin, who is played deliciously by Rosanna Arquette (“Amazon Women on the Moon”).
One phone number and taxi ride later, Hackett is in Soho for his date, except his money just flew out the speeding taxi’s window and that is just the start of the worst night of his life.
The movie’s humor comes from playing on our worst fears of being trapped away from our comfort zone and not being sure how to return.
If you were Hackett, you wouldn’t find any of the night funny, but as an audience member, you can enjoy his hellish experience.
Dunne is pitch-perfect as the lead character in what essentially is a one-man show with an amazing supporting cast that adds nice nuances to the picture.
Teri Garr, (“Mr. Mom,” “The Monkees: Head”) Catherine O’Hara (“Home Alone”) and Linda Fiorentino (“Men in Black,” “Vision Quest”) are all wonderful as psychotic women who find themselves attracted to Hackett on his nightlong trip through Soho.
Comedy duo Cheech and Chong (“Up in Smoke”) have a small, but funny and ultimately important appearance as two cat burglars that cross Hackett’s path.
The most surprising performance comes from John Heard, (“Awakenings,” “The Trip to Bountiful”) is endearing as the bartender that may be able to help. He creates a range that goes from comedy to rage in no time.
Everything mentioned in the film is constructed like a random bit of events, but as the night progresses, we learn how everything is connected.
The story is a puzzle that demands repeat viewing and manages to always be six steps ahead of the audience.
The premise seems normal, but is infused with such imagination that it is a new experience in independent movies.
Much of that comes from the top notch directing of Scorsese, who shoot the streets of New York with so much love. He also seems to show a fondness for the main character and that allows him to create a portrait of familiarity for the audience.
A prime example of that is a scene in which Hackett seems to be the only one that doesn’t know the train fare went up and the toll booth operator refuses to let him go.
Everything that is familiar to the character is somehow different on this night, creating a sense of urgency to leave.
On top of that, you have the great cinematography of Michael Ballhaus (“The Departed”), who adds the right balance of light to the night.
Oscar Winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker (“The Aviator”) also plays an important role in the production and keeps the comedy and horrors of the night with a rapid pace that draws you into the film.
“After Hours” is one trip to Soho, that you won’t regret.
Simply put, “After Hours” is a blast. It features a star-studded cast and plenty of laughs to go along with excellent storytelling.
Scorsese may not have not garnered a tremendous amount of attention for this flick, but that doesn’t matter as it features all of the elements that make him one of the best directors in the industry.
Anyone that’s lived in New York City will intermediately fall in love with the characters and aesthetics that Scorsese so eloquently presents. Quirky, yet charismatic, “After Hours,” makes you feel that you are stuck in the same quagmire as its protagonist and just like him, it’s an adventure that you won’t want to escape from, regardless of the multiple warnings you encounter to do otherwise along the way. It’s fast-paced, wild and never takes itself for granted as well, creating a movie experience unlike any other.
-Patrick Hickey Jr.