Tom Jolliffe looks back at After Hours, Scorsese’s own theme park ride…
Martin Scorsese is firmly in the limelight right now. Not only has Marty recently celebrated a birthday, with which (in cinema circles) brings about career retrospection, but he has a brand new film coming out soon (you may have heard of it…The Irishman). Not only that but he opened a huge cinematic can of worms with his remarks comparing Marvel movies to Theme Park attractions (as opposed to considered humanist cinema).
Scorsese’s filmography is so littered with classic cinema (not least several of his Robert De Niro hookups) that it’s easy to overlook some of his work. Many a great work of Scorsese cinema has been overshadowed by his most iconic pieces. The 80’s had a few prime examples. The King of Comedy, which heavily influenced the recent Joker film is a prime example which never gets talked about enough (though in recent years, and certainly Joker will only help, this is changing). There was also The Color of Money, somewhat iconic at the time when Tom Cruise was establishing himself as hot shit, but a little forgotten in time.
There’s one film in particular though that feels every inch a Scorsese film, but in every essence also not. After Hours is impeccably cut together with firm stylish assurance but it’s a rare venture into farcical comedy that’s brisk, light hearted (even with the presence of some darker themes of murder, hate mobs, drugs, suicide etc). Scorsese’s done loose. He’s done free, jazz finger clicking riffing. He’s made films which were enjoyably escapist ‘events’ and allowed a stylish excess that perhaps couldn’t be afforded in the intensity of films like Raging Bull or Taxi Driver. Cape Fear is to thrillers what a Marvel film is to action. It’s fun, it’s escapism, but it won’t touch on too many depths. It’s Scorsese be-bopping, a-scootin and a-scatting. Still, Cape Fear tied in with the darker material that Scorsese was affiliated with. After Hours almost borders John Hughes or John Landis formula.
Spanning the course of a night, Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) falls into an ever crazier series of darkly comical misadventures in a film that hurtles along almost frantically through its enjoyably lithe 97 minute run time. Dunne’s is a likeable lead and atypically neurotic and sardonic, and like every Scorsese performer is on top of his game. A fine supporting cast which includes Cheech and Chong, Linda Fiorentino, Rosanna Arquette, as well as the future McCallister’s, Catherine O’Hara and John Heard are all in good form too. There’s no intense psychological deconstruction here. This is pure entertainment. This is a film, that had Scorsese not made it, he’d probably put in the ‘Theme park’ camp.
Still, if you’re going to do escapism and style/entertainment over substance (theme park) then to doing so with Scorsese-esque aplomb is the way to do it. There’s something about Scorsese in Cape Fear, or Shutter Island (which still has some ‘cinematic’ depths) and indeed this, where the material feels more inherently ‘genre’ and the films are like rest-stops between more epic projects, that his loose state makes for particularly enjoyable fair. He maybe experiments a little more. After Hours has a great energy, coming not only from the farce and the increasing ludicrousness of each situation inflicted upon an increasingly desperate Dunne (who just wants to get home), but from Scorsese just having fun. He still wants to make a good film, just like the Russo’s want to make good films in the MCU. It won’t say anything particularly lasting or meaningful about the human condition, but dang it, it will entertain.
This forgotten work of free-styling genius is not only a reminder of some of those sadly overlooked films that disappear in the mists of time, but also a comforting excursion for a director who takes cinema very seriously, but can still have fun. Even Martin Scorsese isn’t adverse to simple escapism. Whilst no ground is broken here, After Hours has its own distinct story that feels fresh, original, unique and still holds up. Well worth checking for those who have not got round to watching it yet.
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has several features due out on DVD/VOD in 2019/2020, including Cyber Bride and Scarecrow’s Revenge (definitely theme park attractions), both available on Prime. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/