Writer/director James Bridges originally wrote and edited the film so that the story played chronologically backward, similar to what Memento and Irreversible did 16 years later. However, the studio got nervous, thinking it was too complicated and hard to follow, and had the film re-edited in chronological order for release.
This was the first project Debra Winger did after An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). After a poor reception from preview audiences, the ad campaign was changed, the soundtrack music was replaced and the film was re-edited. It was eventually released in 1984 after Winger had a hit with Terms of Endearment (1983).
there are some who say this film got a little 'too close' to the stark reality of Hollywood in the early '80s.
After a protracted postproduction period, Mike's Murder proves an intriguing, if not entirely successful, suspenser and paranoid mood piece. Resolutely a small, serious film, pic was made quickly and cheaply by James Bridges during the summer of 1982. Reported negative reactions at sneaks in northern California prompted drastic recutting. In addition, a score written by pop musician Joe Jackson was all but discarded.
Mark Keyloun's Mike is a casual, off-and-on-again lover of Debra Winger. He's a tennis teacher who earns additional dough as a small time drug dealer. Unfortunately, with his sideline activities come some unsavory characters, notably the uncouth, impulsive Peter, convincingly played by Darrell Larson. In short order, Keyloun is killed and Larson is informed by a former associate that he's 'a dead man.'
A modestly successful bank employee, Winger spurns friends' advice and begins investigating the realities of Mike's world, meeting some of his lawless friends and ultimately being threatened by the desperate Larson.
With its consciously repetitive scenes of driving around Los Angeles streets, film attempts a contemplative approach to the material and mood of impending doom. The attempt is both interesting and admirable - up to a point. As usual, Winger is wonderful to watch at all times, but her character is something of a cipher, and lack of any psychological angle holds down the film's ultimate achievement.