Spoken of as a lesser Scorsese, a quick-fire, low-budget spin across the tiles of lower Manhattan having grown disaffected with working with studios, After Hours is sneakily one of the master’s best. There is something liberated in the caffeinated hyperkinetic style he lends the movie, as if the grand moral poems he had become acclaimed for were a heavy burden, and finally he had a chance to cut loose.
That is not strictly speaking the case, for the sake of keeping things moving Scorsese ended up cutting 45 minutes from his working cut of Joseph Minion’s script (already lightened of its mobster elements). This was every bit a labour of love as Raging Bull, a thrilling dance of caustic genius, a morally energised screwballer in which a working drone steps out of his formulated life for a fix of something darker. Bad move.
Dunne’s growing exasperation, and terror, in failing to achieve the simplest of tasks in just going home is the anchor for the Wonderland style freakshow of bohos and nutcases that stand in his path. The surreal swirl of women alone, chimes a note from the director’s own turbulent romantic life. From Arquette’s madly swinging moods, to Linda Fiorentino’s quirky artist, to Teri Garr’s beehived weirdo, the women are presented as mouse traps for this innocent sap who only wanted to get laid.
With his camera giddy and wild, Scorsese concocts a streetlife as demented as Mean Streets is grounded. An excursion into a sadistic, unhinged quasi-Manhattan. “Different rules apply when it gets late,” warns Dick Miller in a cameo. It’s a shame Scorsese hasn’t returned to them, this is the blackest funniest comedy he’s ever given us.