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Friday, May 24, 2013

MIKE'S MURDER (1984)

Writer/helmer James Bridges never quite recovered from the one-two punch of this artistic flop and his follow-up pic, the commercial, but cruddy PERFECT/’85. Here, he was trying for a French-styled thriller, more Claude Chabrol than Hitchcock, set in the midst of the High/Low intersecting worlds of ‘80s L.A. drug culture. Debra Winger’s a young bank exec whose on-and-off affair with a drifting tennis pro ends after his casual drug dealing escalates with fatal results. Winger finds she can’t turn the page without knowing what the hell happened and winds up learning some dangerous facts. It’s a great set-up, if only Bridges had the technical chops to pull it off. But a vague narrative tone needs precise shots; and Bridges is no Antonioni, there’s not a memorable image in the pic. Worse, a lack of chemistry between ‘Missing Mike’ and Winger makes her character look dim instead of blinded by a failed romance. (Too bad, Mark Keyloun has the necessary fast-fading pretty-boy insipid looks, but the guy just can’t act.) And a big thriller-diller climax, though reasonably effective, feels tacked on, less Hitchcockian than WAIT UNTIL DARKish/’67. Though it does give an unlikely grand piano a non-symbolic role to play.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The trailer hints at intimate (i.e. European) sex scenes missing from the final cut. No doubt, co-editor Dede Allen (under studio orders?) tried to make this a bit less artsy.

DOUBLE-BILL: You can imagine how this might have worked by watching Robert Altman’s THE PLAYER/’92.

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