Retro Film Review: Murder at 1600 (1997)

in #aaalast month


There are plenty of reasons why President Clinton defied conventional wisdom and remained in office despite Monica Lewinsky scandal. This could be explained with changing morals of American society, media manipulation, partisan politics, more than obvious mean-spiritedness of Clinton's political enemies and other factors. One of the factors was accidental (or not, if you are prone to conspiracy theories) - only a year before scandal Hollywood produced at least three films dealing with murder, sex, conspiracies and similar shenanigans in and around White House. Prosaic reality of Monica Lewinsky simply failed to meet high Hollywood standards, thus creating popular perception of the real world affair being unimportant. One of the films that kept Clinton in White House is Murder at 1600, 1997 thriller directed by Dwight H. Little.

The plot begins in White House with the activity very much like the one that got Clinton into trouble. The only problem is in one of the participants - young, attractive woman employed in White House - being found murdered afterwards. Washington D.C. police detective Harlan Regis (played by Wesley Snipes) is brought to investigate and he quickly realises that his presence is only part of the cover-up, supervised by Secret Service official Nick Spikings (played by Daniel Benzali). Faced with the bureaucratic wall of silence and evidence that point towards suspect too good to be true, Regis continues investigation, aided by Nina Chance (played by Diane Lane), former Olympic sharpshooter and Secret Service liaison agent. While President Jack Neil (played by Ronny Cox) struggles both with the possible scandal at home and emerging hostage crisis abroad, Regis and Chance slowly discover that the murder could be part of wide-ranging political conspiracy.

At the beginning and in the middle, Murder at 1600 functions as a combination of political thriller and police procedural, despite Wayne Beach and David Hodgin's script picking the cliches of both genres. Wesley Snipes, one of the more reliable and more underappreciated modern Hollywood stars, takes his role seriously, and his character of policeman, whose hobby is military history, is well-played. Unfortunately, the ending of the film ruins any suspension of disbelief when the protagonists take the most idiotic approach to solve their problems - the approach that allowed Dwight H. Little to turn this political thriller into "whiz-bang" action movie. At that time even the usually dependable character actors like Ronny Cox and Alan Alda seem lost in this enterprise. Fiction in Murder at 1600 looked more attractive than real life, but the public in the end probably experienced more entertainment with the latter. The real life scandal made more sense than this film.

RATING: 2/10 (-)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on January 22nd 2004)

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Your reviews bring back memories. This film was alot of fun.

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