Martin Scorsese’s After Hours exists in a fever dream, where strange people behave in even stranger ways and an obsessive rationale inhabits every detail. To watch the comedy is to willingly submit yourself to a pattern of horrifying coincidences in which brief moments of security and possibility give way to confusing yet unsettling danger. “Kafkaesque” might be adequate to describe its paranoid internalism, except the term scarcely accounts for the unreservedly bizarre conduct on display or its richly comic effect. Then again, the comedy tangles the viewer into such unbearable knots that from scene to scene it may not feel like a comedy at all, but rather a twisted trip down the rabbit hole into a Wonderland-esque version of New York City, the likes of which only the director of such New York films as Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976) could represent. Scorsese’s 1985 release, though not commonly measured alongside his best works, represents a stylistic exercise unmatched in his career, an undertaking wherein the methods and sensations of the production are far more significant than the nightmare logic which makes them possible.
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