Everybody knows who Martin Scorcese is. We best know him for his Mob films and his grittier fare such as Taxi Driver but my favorite era of his was a magical point in the mid 80's I will hereby refer to as his "gonzo period". He made some real top notch (and dark!) comedies during this period of time that for casual fans either take the back burner or have disappeared from consciousness entirely. After Hours is one of these mostly forgotten gems from the cinematic nether regions of 1985.
And yes, the film is just as frenetic as this trailer would lead you to believe.
Plot synopsis (or the best I can do? this shit really IS nuts): Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne of An American Werewolf In London fame) has a job in a big mid 80's New York conglomobusiness as a word processing guy (you know, back when computers actually were rather difficult to use). He obviously hates his-no pun intended-programmed day. He decides to blow off some steam later that night by reading some Henry Miller at a coffee shop, only to find a beautiful woman named Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) chatting him up. Getting her number and retiring to his apartment, he calls her and begins a dowardly spiraling journey into the night of NYC full of art weirdos, burn cream, suicide, and enough crazies to fill hell's handbag.
Make no mistakes- this movie is really nerve wracking to watch. I don't recommend it to anyone that has anxiety problems because this movie is a tense situation from end to end and you just might wind up bursting into flames midway through it. I fidgeted like you wouldn't believe. I also sat completely stiff for ten plus minutes at a stretch for a good part of it. Nail biters need not apply here.
There's a serious seat of the pants energy in this film that I find lacking in Scorcese's work in the formula we are presented with in After Hours. The editing is super hectic. Tons of snap zooms and quick shots, coupled with practically every style of cinematic lighting ever dreamed of. I don't think I have seen another film quite like it, certainly no other film in the catalog of Mr. Scorcese looks anything even remotely like it. I hope you are curious by now, because I don't know how much further I am willing to tip the hat as you should really be as surprised as I am as to how this film occurs.
The film was made as many genius things are- out of necessity. What do I mean by this? Scorcese had been trying for a good while to have a version of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel The Last Temptation Of Christ come to fruition (he had optioned it back in the 70's), and after the first attempt at production fell through in 1983 poor Martin was devastated. He needed a project that he could just do quick and dirty, experimenting all the way. Tim Burton was originally slated to direct this, but when he caught wind that Scorcese was interested he stepped aside. One wonders what the film would have been like had Burton taken it. Maybe similar but definitely not like this I think.
The casting of this film is really spot on, I simply cannot stress that enough. Look up the list and you will see what I mean. Not one of them is the least bit unmemorable, and their performances only serve to stoke the melting pot of frustration that is the film itself. I should mention that Teri Garr is a total babe in this movie as a Monkees obsessed mod girl, the lady has taste. So is this the movie for you? I cannot rightfully say, but if you enjoy a film that has enough tension to choke a camel (like I do) then this is definitely something you should poke your nose into.
Also, I highly recommend getting this DVD edition of it as it has some really neat special features, including a description of the unshot but would have been super raw ending sequence. I like the way the films ends just fine (it is over all way less psychedelic and more fitting than the alternate one) but catching a glance at what could have been is always a joy.