The cinema of paranoia and persecution reaches an apogee in After Hours, a nightmarish black comedy from Martin Scorsese. Anxiety-ridden picture would have been pretty funny if it didn’t play like a confirmation of everyone’s worst fears about contemporary urban life.
A description of one rough night in the life of a mild-mannered New York computer programmer, film is structured like a ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ through the anarchic, ever-treachous streets of SoHo. Every corner represents a turn for the worse, and by the end of the night, he’s got to wonder, like Kafka’s K, if he might not actually be guilty of something.
It all starts innocently enough, as Griffin Dunne gets a come-on from Rosanna Arquette and ends up visiting her in the loft of avant-garde sculptress Linda Fiorentino. Both girls turn out to be too weird for Dunne, but he can’t get home for lack of cash, so he veers from one stranger to another in search of the most mundane salvation and finds nothing but trouble.
This was Scorsese’s first fictional film in a decade without Robert De Niro in the leading part, and Dunne, who doubled as co-producer, plays a mostly reactive role, permitting easy identification of oneself in his place. Supporting roles are filled by uniformly vibrant and interesting thesps.