Murder at 1600 Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997


She was killed in my city!
She was killed in my house!

"Murder at 1600" is your prototypical buddy-cop movie that happens to have the twist of the murderer being in the White House (like half-a-dozen other movies this year). As the film opens, we see a young woman having sex with an unidentified man in the Oval Office. A few hours later, that same woman is found dead in one of the washrooms of the White House. D.C. Homicide detective Harlan Regis (Wesley Snipes) is called in to investigate the murder. His presence at the crime scene starts a turf war with the stoic Head of Security at the White House with the equally stoic name of Spikings (Daniel Benzali). But fortunately, National Security Advisor Alvin Jordan (Alan Alda) intervenes and allows Harlan to continue his investigation.

During the investigation, he is reluctantly assisted by Secret Service agent Nina Chance (Diane Lane), a former Olympic Gold Medal sharpshooter. The investigation is not easy, as everything that Regis needs to know to do his investigation properly is classified in the interest of national security. A suspect, a White House janitor, is named and arrested very quickly with some circumstantial evidence, and Spikings considers the case closed. However, both Regis and Chance find inconsistencies in the evidence and believe that the janitor is innocent. Wading through cover-up on top of cover-up, the suspicion then turns upon one of three possible suspects: Spikings, the President's son (Tate Donovan), and the President (Ronny Cox), already in the midst of a dicey international hostage-taking incident with the North Koreans.

The suspense is built up nicely throughout the movie as revelations are being made, and the internal conflict that Chance faces between her duty as a Secret Service agent and the need for justice also adds some tension to the story. However, this movie suffers from buddy-cop clichés, right from the onset. For example, the movie opens up with a scene that we are all-too-familiar with: a madman is threatening to kill himself. Maverick cop arrives on the scene, breaks the rules of dealing with the situation by doing something outrageous, and saves the day (à la "Lethal Weapon", "Fort Apache the Bronx", "Metro", etc.). An ongoing gag about Regis' apartment complex being torn down by the Inter-state Commerce Commission tips you off to the inevitable resolution at the end of the film the minute you see it. The Secret Service is following Regis and Chance everywhere and listening in on all their conversations, but seem to be blind and deaf when they execute their daredevil plan to break into the White House. When Regis breaks into the White House, he ends up in the laundry room where he impersonates a janitor, and pushes a cart through the White House, looking down on the ground and whistling (how many times do you have to see that?). The only cliché that I didn't see was the often-inescapable romantic involvement between the male and female protagonists-- but I guess that would have been too blatantly obvious.

"Murder at 1600" does have a few elements that make it shine and everything more-or-less fits together by the end, but the low-rent buddy cop movie underpinnings keep it from being memorable.


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