It’s actually quite tricky to write extensively about a film you have no real feelings about one way or the other.
Political intrigue meets renegade cop.
There’s been a murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC. Local homicide detective Regis is assigned to investigate, along with his Secret Service liaison Agent Nina Chance. As the tenacious Regis digs deeper, he discovers that what at first seems like a simple crime of passion is actually part of a larger conspiracy that could go all the way to the yadda, yadda, yadda. Blah.
Released back in 1997, when Wesley Snipes still seemed to be enjoying going to work in the morning, Murder at 1600 was a part of that short-lived reheat of the conspiracy thriller sub-genre (see Conspiracy Theory, Absolute Power, Shadow Conspiracy. Or, you know, don’t.) that popped up in the second half of the nineties. Fuelled by all that millennium tension horseshit, these flicks – often adaptations of novels – tried to capture that seventies paranoia that was a major part of movies like The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor and Coma (to name but a few). Most only partially succeeded, and the ones that did tended to be the ones with the biggest stars; Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood did alright, Charlie Sheen not so much. This one is kind of a middling effort, with ticks in both the plus and the minus columns.
On the plus side, there’s that cast. You’ve got Snipes showing off underdog charisma in the lead role, with Diane Lane being her usual top-notch self as Chance. They’re both good individually, but it’s a shame they never really spark as a team. Daniel Benzali – fresh from the TV mega-hit Murder One – and Alan Alda class the joint up as the Secret Service director and National Security Adviser respectively, and Ronny Cox is a respectable President. The screenplay, by Wayne Beach and David Hodgin, is based on a novel by Margaret Truman (Harry’s daughter), which adds a certain insider cachet to proceedings. The flick is competently shot by director Dwight Little and his DP Steven Bernstein.
On the other side of the ledger, there’s the fact that, as determined as they always are to surprise you, if you’ve seen one of these movies you’ve seen them all. By the time the opening credits had finished, I knew exactly how the film was going to end. If there is no mystery to a conspiracy thriller then it is very hard to keep the drama going. Without the conspiracy part, all that’s left is the thriller: shoot-outs; chases; ticking clocks… And even those moments didn’t really get the blood pumping.
To most people, Murder at 1600 will just be another forgotten, late-nineties movie that passes the time well enough if it crops up on TV. It was never going to win any awards, nor make any “best of” lists, but it’s no embarrassment either. It’s not good enough or bad enough to get really excited about.
Oh, just one more thing. The White House is federal property, right? Wouldn’t it be the FBI’s case instead of some local cop?