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.