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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
D.C. Detective Wesley Snipes plugs away at a murder in the White House
"Murder at 1600" is basically a mystery-thriller with neo-noir premises in the story. It succeeds by not letting its action sequences get out of hand or too extravagant, and by staging them realistically, so that the entire story comes across as reasonably realistic, or at least not wildly implausible. Another element creating success is that there is no over-acting. Wesley Snipes, a fine and substantial leading man, handles the role well with his usual aplomb and confidence. For a change, there is no needless friction built into the script between him and his Secret Service sidekick, Diane Lane.
The story has a "Seven Days in May" angle at its heart, and there is one scene and line that shows that the writers were well aware of this. It occurs when Harris Yulin (playing a small part as a general) tells the president (the smooth Ronny Cox) that his behavior borders on the criminal. This was Burt Lancaster's line in the earlier movie, which also involved a plot to remove the president from office so that a new one could employ more military force in foreign dealings.
In this case, the plot to get the president to resign is led by the National Security Adviser, Alan Alda. Alda relishes playing the militaristic part; compare his superb movie "The Seduction of Joe Tynan" in which he also skewers politicians. It involves the president's son and a murder of a pretty White House aide. The Secret Service is involved, its head making off with vital tapes in a cover-up attempt.
The movie actually involves two more cover-ups, and they are the president's. They involve first his son, before he is found to be framed, and second, how the story is told to the public after Snipes finds the actual perpetrators. A story is concocted. Truth is shown to be breached almost routinely by the president who has been saved. This is a good twist of irony.
In fact, what I like best about the movie is the contrast between the cynical and scheming federal officials and the straight arrow Snipes.
The FBI was left out of the script because that would have ramped up the complications. One of the main ideas is to contrast local justice and police, in the form of honest and straightforward Snipes, with the national (federal) kinds of people involved in all kinds of lying, frame-ups, and cover-ups. Had the FBI been involved, we would have had the added complications of their leaders either kowtowing to the political figures or getting information on them to use against them or standing aside for their own advantage or else bumbling and failing to connect the dots, as the FBI is wont to do. Any of this would have been very hard to handle without extending the story by 30 minutes.
This movie is not predominantly an action film, despite the final sequence, and those who expect big action scenes will not find them here. This film is much more about a complex plot to take over the presidency by those interested in military action, in this case, directed at North Korea to recover American hostages. It is much more about uncovering the conspiracy. And it should be noted that Diane Lane plays a critical role as someone who must decide where her loyalty lies, to her job and superiors who are misbehaving, or to her conscience.
Although movies like this may seem fanciful, not a day passes that their themes do not become more and more pertinent. The years between 1997, when this was made, and now have been years of increasing propaganda emanating from Washington and media, militarism, and National Security Council spying.
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