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500 Five-Star: After Hours (1985)

June 9, 2011

Before I decided to start the 500 Films project, After Hours was one of the few Scorcese films I had never seen (despite owning it on DVD).  For whatever reason, I had decided I wouldn’t enjoy it and so had left the DVD unopened on the shelf for years, never really having the urge to give it a try.  It was almost a relief to finally force myself to watch it, and to my surprise, I did enjoy it.  A lot.  I wasn’t entirely sure of this while watching it, and for a couple of days afterwards, but then it hit me that I actually thought it was brilliant.

I was only one year old when After Hours came out, and I was 20 by the time I first visited New York, by which time most of Manhattan had become a safe place to explore day or night.  However, if I was to imagine SoHo in the early hours of a mid-1980’s morning, the dark, weird, disturbing world of After Hours is pretty much a spot-on depiction.  Of course, my own imagination would be somewhat exagerrated and so is Scorcese’s vision.  This is the darkest of dark comedies, treading a fine line between humourous and downright terrifying.  With the director’s trademark volatile camera swooping through the streets of SoHo finding disaster and craziness around every corner, he relies on excellent performances (especially by Griffin Dunne in the lead role) to remind the viewer that the film *is* supposed to be amusing, albeit in a completely demented way.  Out of the darkness comes weird and wacky characters, all determined to stop Dunne getting the one thing he wants: to get home safely.  It’s Scorcese let loose, having fun, and it’s well worth seeking out.


It took me a few days to realise how impressed I was by After Hours, but while it is a great film, I disagree with Empire claiming it as one of Scorcese’s best.  It’s very entertaining, very well-made, very memorable, but not an instant classic.  My opinion might change with further viewings, but for now I give it…


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