Griffin Dunne is Paul, an uptown word processor who’s lived his entire life according to the rules. Naturally, the moment he steps into another section of town (SoHo) at an off hour (see the film’s title), he finds himself engulfed in a whirlpool of Murphy’s Law scenarios: his prospective one-night stand commits suicide, he repeatedly finds himself a dollar short, being mistaken for a roving burglar and consequently pursued by an angry mob. Or is it all just a horrible dream and is there something he can do to end it? Martin Scorsese’s mid-’80s comeback of sorts (it won him a Best Director citation at Cannes) has undeniable energy, thanks to his dependably flamboyant sleeve of speed-freak camera truck shots and the hectic Thelma Schoonmaker editing slights of hand. Scorsese’s obviously showing off, and this showmanship ends up enhancing the film’s dreamlike, surrealist sense of encroaching hysteria (such as when Dunne visits Teri Garr’s apartment and finds her bed surrounded by mousetraps, inexplicably lit with spots like her bed stands at the center of a cabaret atrocity stage). But Joseph Minion’s script is a relentless excursion into pure sadism, and by the time Catherine O’Hara shows up to become the third blond chick to go psychotic and attempt to destroy Paul’s sense of masculine sexual confidence, many an audience member will likely have already cashed in on their empathy and cut their losses. Still, there’s a welcome, insistently radical subtext behind the scenario, a vaguely proletarian-sympathetic attitude (echoes of Brazil) that a faceless, overly-mechanized workplace results in the frazzled, desperate drive to make off-hours (or after hours) count for all they’re worth. And it’s a tragedy to show up at work to give away more of your time when you’ve failed to define yourself the night before.
After Hours was a relatively low-budget film, shot mainly on the lam, so it's no real surprise that Warner's best effort still results in a fairly muddy-looking anamorphic transfer. It's not the cleanest of prints, and many colors come off pretty muted, but on the positive side the dark range (and there's a fair amount of it) is solid. The sound is crystal-clear (especially dealing with some of Scorsese's kamikaze sound effects like the ring of keys tossed from the top floor of an apartment building) and far more dimensional than the mono presentation would suggest. The unfortunate side effect is that Howard Shore's irritating synthesized score will probably violate your unsuspecting eardrums.
The commentary track is referred to as scene-specific, but this is a new definition of the term for me. If you select the commentary feature, you’re taken to a truncated cut of the film. Since the commentary scenes total an hour and 15 minutes, it’s sort of pathetic to consider that they couldn’t just cull another 20 minutes of material to make up the difference. I mean, Jesus, there are only five participants on the track, and one of them is Motormouth Scorsese himself! Nonetheless, it’s an entertaining listen overall, if a bit self-congratulatory. And it’s surely preferable to the sparse 18-minute "making of" featurette (which, for whatever reason, does not include interview footage with Scorsese). Aside from the theatrical trailer, there’s a generous nine-minute reel of deleted scenes that includes, among other mean-spirited kicks, the spectacle of Catherine O’Hara howling at her frat boy neighbors to sit on her face.
The back of the box calls the film a "Chinese puzzle." Are they sure they didn’t mean "Chinese Water Torture?"