MURDER AT 1600 fits right in with its ancestors - this year's THE
SHADOW CONSPIRACY and ABSOLUTE POWER. We have yet another massive
conspiracy plot with the White House at the center of the duplicity.
Like its forefathers, it stretches credibility way past the breaking
All of this having been said, director Dwight Little's MURDER AT
1600 still turns out to be an entertaining thriller. Yes, the story is
preposterous and the acting by the supporting cast borders on parody,
but the performances by Wesley Snipes and Diane Lane enliven what would
otherwise be a pedestrian movie. They appear to believe their material
and manage to transfer their acceptance to the audience. Whereas I
normally get obsessed with the problems of such a Swiss cheese
thriller, this time I found myself swept up into the two heroes'
predicaments. They believed, so I believed, and I rooted for them
right down to the last chase scene.
"Yeah, yeah, I got a coat and tie," says the D. C. Homicide
Detective Harlan Regis (Snipes) as he answers his boss's call. "1600
what?" That's right, there has been a murder at 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue, and for some reason the Secret Service wants a local cop to
In the opening scene, Regis establishes his macho prowess, but
will this new assignment be more than he can handle? When he arrives
at the White House he finds a woman who has been murdered soon after
having has sex with someone, but clues are hard to find, and the Secret
Service is hiding what it knows under the covers of secrecy. How many
people were in the White House at the time of the murder? -- 31, but
the official list only has names 30 of them. Regis cannot get the name
of the other because of reasons of national security.
When Regis goes to the home of the dead woman, the Secret Service
has already stripped it of all the evidence, which it will not show
him. Moreover, they managed to arrive at her house only fifteen
minutes after she was killed. This does not add up. Except for the
First Family, who were at Camp David, Regis considers everyone else
All of this happens quickly at the first of the movie. From there
the film, filled with dramatic music (Christopher Young) down in the
low registers, moves from surprise to surprise with several obligatory
chase scenes to keep the energy going. The sound effects include the
requisite number of thunderstorms lest you forget to be frightened.
Beside the impossibility of the script by Wayne Beach and David
Hodgin, the dialog borders on the trite, especially in one supercilious
speech at the end. Still, the story line twists one way and then
another and always keeps your attention. Every time you think you have
the mystery figured out, you don't.
Although Snipes has star billing, Diane Lane's performance is
equal to his. She plays tough Secret Service agent Nina Chance. She
manages to be beautiful without any sexual connotations. She is a
career agent trapped between her conscience and her dedication to her
position. Both Snipes and Lane play intelligent people with
interesting other lives. Regis constructs Civil War battlefield
models, and Chance was a gold metal sharpshooter at the Olympics.
Daniel Benzali wins the award for the worst performance in the
film. With a constant scowl and a shaved head, he plays the ever
menacing Nick Spikings, head of White House security. He grunts most
of his lines.
Ronny Cox plays President Jack Neil. President Neil has a hostage
crisis to deal with while the murder investigation goes forward.
Lambasted as being an ineffectual and indecisive president, his make-up
has him looking ready for the undertaker. Alan Alda plays Alvin
Jordan, the president's National Security Advisor.
A high energy thriller with two good leads. What more could you
ask for? Well to start with, a plot with a tinge of plausibility and a
supporting cast that was not embarrassing. Nevertheless, Snipes and
Lane manage to carry the movie.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes