Everybody knows about Goodfellas and Raging Bull. But there is a relatively little-known Scorcese picture that is every bit equal to his famous masterpieces: After Hours. Scorcese made this film in 1985 so that he could deliver a relatively cheap and easy production (IMDb gives an estimated budget of $4.5 million) in the wake of his first failed attempt at The Last Temptation of Christ.
Boy did he deliver. This is a fabulously entertaining, darkly comic story about a word processor’s (Griffin Dunne) night-time odyssey through the streets of SoHo in Manhattan. Roger Ebert at the time gave this film his highest rating, 4 out of 4 stars:
“After Hours” is a brilliant film, one of the year’s best. It is also a most curious film. It comes after Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” a film I thought was fascinating but unsuccessful, and continues Scorsese’s attempt to combine comedy and satire with unrelenting pressure and a sense of all-pervading paranoia. This time he succeeds. The result is a film that is so original, so particular, that we are uncertain from moment to moment exactly how to respond to it. The style of the film creates, in us, the same feeling that the events in the film create in the hero.
Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette in After Hours
I concur, but will add that although After Hours is indeed starkly original, it is not at all so quirky as to be difficult to follow. Quite the opposite: the story here is laid out in consummate, directly linear fashion. The result is a movie that is engrossing from first frame to last, without a single dull moment. An extra bonus will be had for Scorsese fans out there, as After Hours is full of cinematic flair — those great camera movements in particular — which are characteristically Marty.
Griffin Dunne’s central character is surrounded by a movie-lover’s delight of oddball supporting characters played by Rosanna Arquette, Teri Garr, Linda Fiorentino, Cheech & Chong, Catherine O’Hara, Bronson Pinchot and others, and by Scorsese himself in a cameo role. As I said, fabulously entertaining — a masterpiece. 10/10
And a warning: avoid the trailer, which is readily available. It steals a number of surprises from the movie, and yet does not flatter it.