Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Murder at 1600 – Not as Far-Fetched As Once Thought

Written by Wayne Beach and David Hodgin
Directed by Dwight Little

I’ve never been a Wesley Snipes fan – he’s just not a name that usually will draw me to a film. However, I think he does a great job in the film Murder at 1600.

Snipes portrays Washington DC detective Harlan Regis. In the beginning of the film, he is trying to figure out how to avoid being evicted when he is called to a very familiar Washington address to investigate a homicide. The eviction and a conflict with the North Koreans is going on in the background all during the murder investigation.

It’s not enough to have to deal with the usual complications of a homicide investigation, but what Regis is dealing with here is national security issues. His access to evidence as well as people to question is restricted by both the Secret Service and the National Security Administration. Who are they covering up for?

His Secret Service liaison is Nina Chance, a former Olympic gold-medalist in sharp-shooting. Casting Diane Lane in this part was also a good move. She is a contemporary of Snipes here – not a love interest and not an underling. She is truly his equal and plays the part very well.

The film follows Regis, Chance, and Regis’ partner Detective Steve Stengel (portrayed by a subdued Dennis Miller) through their investigation. While there is some action, primarily this movie is filled with suspense. In the beginning, it was immediately apparent to me that the initial suspect was being set-up but who actually committed the murder eluded me until about three-quarters of the way through.

Daniel Benzali also does a tremendous job portraying Head White House Secret Service Agent Nick Spikings. Along with Alan Alda as National Security Advisor Alvin Jordan, I never had a clear motivation as to whether they thought they were protecting someone or just trying to work their own agenda. Who was the good guy? Who was the bad guy? How much does the President know? Is he involved? This movie kept me in suspense very well.

The sub-plot of his dealing with the North Korean crisis also played out good in light of recent events. Rather than charge right in to attempt to rescue thirteen men who were shot down while spying, he is attempting to negotiate, much to the chagrin of the National Security Advisor and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Should he be questioned about a murder that he may or may not have had anything to do with while having to deal with a crisis of global proportions?

Many of the questions the film raised I could see being applied to the Presidency just as I’ve known it with recent inhabitants of the White House.

There are plenty of parts that are rather implausible. Just a look at the notoriety the Bush daughters gained with their illegal drinking makes me believe it would be impossible for the Secret Service to cover up the President’s son beating up his girlfriend. The press knows about underage drinking but not a beating? I don’t think so. I also thought the ease with which access was gained to the White House at the end was ridiculous, even if it was necessary for the plot.

I was also somewhat disturbed by the portrayal of the Secret Service as an agency that functioned to cover-up for the President and his family. In the beginning, they seem to be primarily responsible for the framing of the initial suspect. Agent Chance goes along with this until Detective Regis rattles her by suggesting her silence will be responsible for sending an innocent man to jail. It seems like no other agents had a moral problem with sending an innocent man to prison.

At the end, we know even though the murderer has been found and his evil plans thwarted, a cover-up will still occur. There is politics at play in keeping the citizens innocent about a lot of the scandals. However, I have to wonder how they will manage to keep people like Detective Regis and Detective Stengel from talking, since neither of them indicated all along that they play the political games.

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