After Hours (1985) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Neither of us is very enthusiastic about this stylish, surrealistic, dark comedy from Martin Scorsese. We have some admiration for it, but not much love.

Scoop's words in white:

If you're a baseball fan, you know that you can estimate a team's pennant chances by looking at the guy who bats third. If the best hitter on the team is Albert Pujols, the team is not automatically a pennant contender, but it could be. On the other hand, if you have Abraham Nunez batting third, there isn't any chance that your team will be in the hunt. I mean no disrespect against Nunez or the Royals, but the point is that he could not be batting third on a pennant contender. Most pennant contenders have three or four hitters (or more) better than the Royals' best. The Cardinals have at least four hitters who are good enough to be hitting third in the Royals' lineup. When the Yankees were healthy, their first seven hitters were all guys who would immediately be hitting in the three hole if traded to the Royals.

This brings us to the subject of Griffin Dunne. If you are making a film and Griffin Dunne is your peppy utility infielder, a guy who can bat eighth and lay down a bunt for the big hitters, then you may field a winner, but if Dunne is the best man on the field, your go-to guy for everything, then you're in the film equivalent of the Kansas City Royals. Dunne has been effective in small doses as the comical sidekick or the zany neighbor or something, but he really doesn't have the charisma or the range to carry a movie.

In After Hours, he delivers a flat, monotonous performance as a contemporary man trapped in a modern version of a Kafkasque fantasy. His performance is not necessarily unrealistic. Perhaps it is very realistic. Most of us are monotonous and predictable, I suppose, and Dunne stands in our shoes as the "normal" guy in a surreal world. But realistic, repetitious mannerisms are not necessarily suited for entertainment films.

Although this film has been much ballyhooed by some film buffs, I have always struggled to stay awake when watching it. And when I am awake and involved, I find myself irritated by shrill performances and illogical character motivations, rather than charmed by its offbeat allure.

Dunne plays a Manhattan working drone, a word processing specialist in a publishing operation of some kind. He's the type of faceless man you could work with for ten years without learning his name. One evening, he decides to escape his bland existence by following up on a pick-up opportunity. He meets a girl in a coffee shop and likes her. She offers a phone number. He debates about making the call, then screws up his courage picks up the phone, and eventually agrees to meet her at the artists' loft in which she is currently crashing.

Life is full of risks. Taking them often results in disastrous consequences, which is what makes them "risky" in the first place. His decision to meet her, down in her world, turns out to be one of those very bad risks. He soon finds out that he can't connect with her or anything in her world. He tries to walk out of her life, with limited success. It's pouring, he loses his last folding money, and he's stuck in SoHo with no money, amid drugged-out punks, crazy S&M fetishists, lonely women living in the past, and a crazy woman who drives an ice cream truck. The neighborhood is also being terrorized by burglars, and the locals gradually come to believe that Dunne is the one responsible for the burglaries. He ends up being pursued by a vigilante mob in an ice cream truck, their hunt punctuated by the familiar Mr Softee tune.

I guess you can probably figure that it's a dark comedy, and it is a highly respected one, directed by the great Martin Scorsese in a departure from his usual gritty urban realism. The film does manage to incorporate Scorsese's usual intensity into the comic premise, but lacks any real laughter. It is, as I mentioned earlier, a comedy only in the sense that Kafka's The Trial is a comedy.

There is a lot of praise for this film at IMDb and from the reviewers cited at Rotten Tomatoes. Many found it hilarious. Roger Ebert gave it four stars. Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time relating to this threatening kind of comedy premise, and I have a very limited tolerance for weirdness created just to test the edges of weirdness. For me, this film is a long, tedious, and sometimes irritating watch. The attempts at comedy were generally grating. I guess Scorsese meant to get under my skin. If so, he succeeded, but I didn't like it.

Tuna's words in yellow:

After Hours (1985) is a very dark comedy that marked director Martin Scorsese's return to his roots of low budget film making. With the collapse of United Artists and the cancellation of Temptation of Christ, he re-evaluated his career, and went back to the sort of film that made him famous. The short plot summary is very simple. Griffin Dunne meets a girl (Rosanna Arquette) in a restaurant, phones her when he gets home, and she invites him to her Soho apartment. Although it is after midnight, and he would be out of his element, he accepts.


  • Linda Fiorentino shows her breasts in two scenes.
  • Rosanna Arquette appears wearing nothing but panties,  but with her hands over her breasts, covering everything.
  • An anonymous topless woman is seen through a window.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic transfer

  • commentary by Dunne, Scorsese, and others

  • "making of" documentary

  • deleted scenes

He then has one disaster after another. His money blows out the window of his cab, he discovers that he doesn't really care for Arquette, and he runs away. Unfortunately, it is pouring rain, and he doesn't have enough money for subway fare. Then things really go downhill.

I remember enjoying this film a lot the first time I watched it, but the second time through was not nearly as entertaining.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert gave it four stars out of four, Leonard Maltin only 2.5/4

  • Martin Scorsese was awarded the Best Director award at Cannes.

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $10 million, compared to a modest $4 million budget.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+, a very well made dark comedy.

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