Could the President be a Murderer?
For a movie which is such a stereotypical, run of the mill cop thriller, there is something entertaining about "Murder at 1600" starring Wesley Snipes and Diane Lane. Nearly everything about it is completely predictable from the hard nosed cop, to the Secret Service shadow; even various scenes could have been plucked out of any other movie from this genre and then spliced together to make "Murder at 1600". The one resounding fact that makes it rise from predictable mediocrity is that in time honoured tradition of having a twist, this one is pretty unpredictable.
After a woman is discovered murdered in the toilets at the White House, tough talking Washington police detective Harlan Regis (Wesley Snipes - The Fan) is assigned to the case. Struggling to break through the barriers placed in his way by the White House's head of the Secret Service, Spikings (Daniel Benzali), Regis finds his every move shadowed by one of his agents, Nina Chance (Diane Lane - Jack). But when a White House cleaner is suddenly charged with the murder, Regis believes an innocent man is being set up to cover a much darker truth.
As already mentioned, "Murder at 1600" is predictable and uses the standard cop looking for a killer whilst putting his own life in danger type storyline. Even placing the action in the White House is not especially original, but does add the enjoyable twist that maybe the President could be the murderer. Although for the most it is predictable, each scene is pretty good, with the opening sequence establishing our hero as a hard nosed cop who is willing to push the boundaries, yes this has been done in such movies as "Lethal Weapon" but then few movies are unique these days. Plus the initial contempt between our hero and his Secret Service shadow works well as they learn to work as a team.
Unlike many movies in this genre, "Murder at 1600" despite it's predictability is a reasonably well made with the main characters being solidly introduced and although at times the action may seem a bit far-fetched, it works well. What is also nice is that it keeps the storyline very tight, giving you reasons behind actions instead of leaving you wondering why they did that. Plus it doesn't leave you to dwell on anything for longer than is absolutely necessary as the action and the storyline move along at a perfect pace.
The main star of "Murder at 1600" is Wesley Snipes as detective Harlan Regis. Although a completely stereotypical movie detective with his no nonsense approach, and slightly strange personal life, he constructs scale models of famous battles, Snipes does a great job of bringing him to life and making him interesting. It is no surprise that Regis comes over as quite a cool character as this is what Snipes does so well.
Opposite Snipes we have Diane Lane as Nina Chance, the secret service shadow who ends up becoming more of a partner than a hindrance. Again this is a very stereotypical character as she starts off as the nearly robotic agent, obeying every command from her superiors with out questioning why, but then the human side of her comes through as she begins to question whether her bosses may be behind the murder. To be honest Lane brings nothing new to a plain character, but her pairing with Snipes works remarkably well.
In cop thriller tradition, Regis does have a detective partner in the shape of Dennis Miller who is hugely underused and is basically there until the partnership between Regis and Chance lifts off. Also hugely underused are Daniel Benzali as the head of the Secret Service and the hugely talented Alan Alda as the President's National Security Adviser, both very fine actors who given the chance could have added so much more depth to their characters and the film in general.
"Murder at 1600" is directed by Dwight H. Little who really has stayed tight to the line and made a play it by numbers movie, but as they say "If it ain't broke, why fix it". Despite the formulaic approach, Little has done a good job of delivering a movie with the perfect balance of action and drama, and unlike other movies in this genre, this one is actually thrilling. Yes, I may be somewhat predictable and very cliché right down to the dialogue and run of the mill soundtrack, but Little has made it very engrossing and having watched it on numerous occasions, it still manages to gain my full attention.
What this all boils to down to is that you would not be wrong to think that "Murder at 1600" is just another predictable movie in an already over packed genre of look-a-likey movies. But in an era where cinema has hit an all time low with dull, unoriginal remakes and copies, at least "Murder at 1600" manages to remain entertaining and enthralling. A combination of a decent twist and a very good performance from Wesley Snipes lifts this above the usual drivel. It will never be termed as a classic and may be very formulaic in its approach but it is thrilling for all the right reasons.