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A 25 year old female White House staffer, Carla Town is murdered in the White House. D.C. homicide detective Regis is assigned to investigate, only to find all evidence suppressed by the Secret Service. After suspecting a cover-up, Regis convinces Secret Service Agent Nina Chance to assist in uncovering the cover-up. The President's son Kyle Neil is a prime suspect, as he was having sex with Carla within an hour of her murder. While the investigation ensues the President Jack Neil is holding meetings with top military personnel regarding North Korea's holding 23 U.S. military personnel hostage. Regis confronts top Secret Service Agent Spikings at his home shortly after Spikings returns home with evidence leading to the murder. The home is attacked and Spikings is killed, but Regis makes it out alive with Agent Chance's assistance, and with the evidence tape. White House adviser Jordan presents false evidence to the President that his son killed Carla and forces the President to say he... Written by
Murder at 1600 is an enjoyable thriller. There are some formula aspects as other reviewers have mentioned, but on the whole the plot a murder within 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue leaves the viewer in some suspense. As a "whodunnit", the movie succeeds, and as for this reviewer, the murderer and the actual conspiracy isn't evident till near the end. Wayne Beach and the late David Hodgin create enough plot twists to keep most viewers guessing. Director Dwight Little keeps things tight and well-paced. There is a good sense of logic to Murder at 1600's execution.
It's arguably one of the best films Snipes has starred in. Known more for his tough-guy roles in Passenger 57 and Demolition Man, it's refreshing to see Snipes as a detective who relies more on thinking than weaponry. Revelations keep Snipes' character, Det Harlan Regis, pursuing new leads just as any logical audience member would. Regis, a history buff who has recreated battles with miniature models in his living room and a well-respected detective, puts both his police training and interests to use. Beach and Hodgin have also humanized Regis: he is about to be evicted a fact that is quickly introduced in the film's opening sequence and he and his fellow tenants' problem is solved in a refreshing way.
Diane Lane plays a Secret Service agent, Nina Chance, who begins to suspect a cover-up at the White House and assists Regis. It's established early on that she brought home the gold in sharpshooting at the 1988 Olympics and her skills are put to good use in several action scenes. Unlike most TV heroines, her aim doesn't get better as the ending nears. There's a welcome consistency that's seldom seen from Hollywood, where the hero often loses a fight at the beginning yet miraculously triumphs at the end. It's a real pleasure to see Lane back in a high-calibre film; for too long we've seen her in forgettable fare such as Judge Dredd and Knight Moves. Lane's acting ability should keep her in the limelight, one hopes she is an actress who doesn't deserve to fade in her 40s. This will depend on whether the establishment will come to its senses about its ageist attitude toward actresses.
The cast is ably supported by the menacing Daniel Benzali; Alan Alda comes to Snipes's aid as the National Security Adviser to the President; Ronny Cox is a president in crisis as American troops are held hostage in North Korea; Tate Donovan as the president's playboy son. Every character, with the exception of Snipes's sidekick played by Dennis Miller, has a part to play in the plot; thanks to a better-than-usual casting job by the duo of Amanda Johnson and Cathy Sandrich (often good with mysteries) the roles are very well filled.
And refreshingly for Hollywood, we do not have a male European-American hero saving the day with his African-American sidekick. There have been enough biases against minorities in casting films. And there have also been enough films that take things too far the other way. The race issue is never played in this film: director Dwight Little treats each character as a regular person, just like in real life where the majority of us don't give an iota what colour or creed someone is.
Some parts of Christopher Young's score are not terribly fitting although on the whole he does a good job. Sound effects are well handled in this film as is the editing; both contribute well to the suspense and the mood. Steven Bernstein's photography cuts between the real and created White Houses well, and contributes well to the film's overall effect.
This is one of the best and most logical films that has come out of Hollywood for some time. It will not insult many viewers' intelligence for starters. While not 100 per cent original, it is a very well-made film that rests on a solid plot and direction.
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