Martin Scorsese never fails to amaze me! I have always believed that Stanley Kubrick is the only person who has managed to deliver masterpieces (note..not just 'good' films, but 'great' films) in diverse genres.
I mean..let's face it; Scorsese's best and/or best-known pictures are either Crime dramas or grave character dramas or De Niro dramas! But with "After Hours" Scorsese proves that he can pull off a tongue-in-cheek dark comedy with lesser known actors pretty well.
Written by Joseph Minion, this eventful tale called "After Hours" chronicles the strange experiences in the life of Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) occurring in one fateful night when just about everything seems to go wrong for him. It all begins in the late hours, with a chance conversation with an attractive girl Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) in a coffee shop. She mentions about staying with her friend, a sculptress, Kiki (Linda Fiorentino) who is also making and selling plaster of Paris paperweights the shape of donuts, bagels, etc!
Paul is clearly more interested in the girl than in the paperweights and after going home for the night he calls up the number she gives him. To his joy she invites him over. A crazy cab ride and his accidental losing of his only $20 bill is only the beginning of the long chain of hellish misadventures that he goes through in the remainder of the night...
Scorsese doesn't waste much time into getting right to it, and you are instantly sucked into the drama. There is something in the way he shoots his scenes..you just know that something exciting or different is going to happen any minute the moment he meets with Marcy in the shop. Even the smallest, most trivial of conversations seem to hold our interest! He captures New York City by night, beautifully, with the lit, empty streets partly wet with the rains, the empty diners and coffee shops just make you feel like going there and living the New York night! The otherwise bustling city that never sleeps gets an eerie ghost-town like feel!
We are also introduced to a bunch of loony characters who all seem to be slight nutcases! So there's the peculiar looking taxi driver who drives at breakneck speed which makes the taxi ride seem like a roller coaster ride; Kiki the sculptress also comes across as anything but normal with her weird dressing sense and mannerisms; Marcy seems to have some emotional problems of her own..
There are a lot of such colourful characters that Paul meets in his night of a lifetime. These characters don't get much screen time yet they are so well written, cast and directed that they stay in your memory long after the film has ended. That is where the Scorsese magic lies; he knows how to make the best of the characters he has at hand and does a wonderful job of smoothly fitting them all in this strange narrative. A particularly interesting character in this oddball ensemble is the poker-faced bouncer (Clarence Felder) at the gates of the nightclub 'Club Berlin' who looks like an ogre and mouths seemingly senseless dialog while denying a frustrated Paul an entry into the club.
But like other films in the genre, "After Hours" is yet another comedy that has to rely on that magical phenomenon called "chance" to further its story. So it is no surprise really that SoHo (the place where most of the events happen) is an extremely small place and Paul just happens to cross paths with several individuals at least twice in a single night! Furthermore these several individuals also happen to run into each other at other times! Add to that the fact that by sheer coincidence, some of these individuals even know each other very well! The convenient twists like these do tend to mar the viewing experience slightly, but not entirely!
That apart, Griffin Dunne is excellent in the only role I've seen him in! Familiar faces like the hot Rosanna Arquette, the not-so-hot Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, Catherine O'Hara and Cheech Marin appear briefly in this crazy venture that is so unlike anything Scorsese has ever done before. Scorsese does his trademark cameo too in one hysterically funny scene.
Do watch "After Hours", Scorsese's depiction of one wild night in our unlucky hero's life, for all its craziness. It will certainly keep you captivated right 'til the even nuttier yet clever climax...