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After Hours (Blu-Ray Review)

3 min read

The Criterion Collection

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

While Martin Scorsese certainly requires no introduction, After Hours still might. It is one of the most overlooked films from the great director, most likely because it is a . While the general idea that Scorsese ‘only makes gangster films' has always been wrong, is still his only comedic film other than The Wolf of Wall Street. It is now being released in the U.K. for the first time ever on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra-HD.

stars as Paul Hackett, a word processor who finds himself at the centre of a Kafkaesque night from Hell. It all begins simply: he takes an interest in a girl in a coffee shop. She invites him over to her apartment, and he heads over. From there, everything that could possibly go wrong… goes wrong.

Not only is After Hours extremely funny, but it is also surprisingly tense. There is a feeling of complete helplessness as Hackett either makes terrible decisions or, on occasion, finds himself unfairly placed into terrible situations. The escalation of the script, penned by Joseph Minion, is masterful. Beginning by simply trying to visit a woman, Hackett eventually finds himself the victim of a New York City manhunt.

The

It is also clear that After Hours has had a major influence on other directors. Comparisons to the Safdie brothers' Uncut Gems are especially apt. That film shares After Hours‘ grim sense of humour as we witness a character fall (or push themselves) further and further into trouble. Hackett has a certain charm that means we maintain hope for him to escape these situations, rather than see him continue to suffer. This is largely due to Dunne's great performance. Hackett is charming and funny, but also a complete idiot. Dunne is able to capture both sides of the character, seemingly with ease.

The cinematography by Michael Ballhaus is beautiful, made more impressive by Criterion's quality restoration. He captures nighttime New York's neon lights and dingy streets in a way reminiscent of Scorsese's previous Taxi Driver, updated for the 1980s. The constant movement of the camera gives After Hours a liveliness and a nervous energy that mirrors that of Hackett. The score, an eerie mix of electronic synths and jazz instruments, also captures the discomfort of Dunne's character and makes it more immediate.

The supporting cast contains a number of recognisable actors, all playing wonderfully strange characters for Hackett to interact with. Rosanne Arquette is Marcy, the woman who Paul begins his adventure for. Linda Fiorentino is Kiki, Marcy's roommate and a sculptor. Both parents from Home Alone (John Heard and Catherine O'Hara) appear. Unsurprisingly, both make an already terrible night that much worse in very funny (and awkward) fashions. Least expectedly of all, Cheech and Chong appear as a pair of thieves.

After Hours is a truly electrifying film from beginning to end. It is extremely funny, largely thanks to its script and its performances, but also deeply tense and unnerving due to its surreal sense of helplessness. It is one of 's best films, created during what might be his artistic prime. Whether you think that Scorsese was better in the '70s, '80s or '90s, one thing remains true: After Hours is an absolute must see.

After Hours will be released by The Criterion Collection on October 9th.