Murder at 1600 (1997) from Junior and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Junior's comments in white:

A very decent mystery/action/thriller starring Wesley Snipes, Diane Lane, Dennis Miller and Alan Alda.

The plot:
A beautiful young woman is found dead in the White House. The President's approval ratings are already way down due to a hostage crisis and his lack of action, and the last thing the White House needs is a scandal. However, there has been a murder in the most secure home in America, and the crime needs to solved quickly. Alan Alda, as National Security Advisor, authorizes D.C. Homicide (Snipes) to aide in the investigation. Diane Lane (looking gorgeous) is the Secret Service agent assigned to Snipes as a liaison officer.

Naturally, as the case progresses there are many twists and turns. People aren't always who they seem, and the case isn't as open and shut as the Secret Service would like it to be. As clues are revealed, Lane learns she must risk her career, and maybe even her life, to do the right thing and help Snipes solve the case.

The story is your typical whodunit, but the unique spin of having the murder take place in the White House does make us think about what might really happen. In real life, I would imagine that any such crime would be erased from existence, and no one outside of a handful of top government people would ever know the truth. But for the movie, the government lets the public know, and gets the cops involved. I still say that would never happen, but at least they don't make it easy for Snipes, and toss in some red tape, secret surveillance, shadowy assassins, etc.

Some thoughts:
Snipes is a fine actor, but from all of the news and gossip I have read over the years, it seems that all too often his ego gets in the way, and he makes demands that change the look and feel of his characters and/or films. Much to director Dwight H. Little's credit, that did not happen this time. In this role he was a good cop, but not a supercop. He wore a normal detective wardrobe, drove an unmarked squad car, didn't have sex with the female partner, and all of his action sequences played out very naturally. No Armani suits and blue tinted shades, no jet black ultra cool muscle cars, no high flying karate kicks, no mega endurance chasing bad guys on foot, no supercop intuition about the bad guy's next moves, and so on. The end result...Snipes' character was just an everyday guy in an extraordinary situation. Or as I like to call it, The Bruce Willis Effect. Interestingly enough, IMDb Trivia says Willis was originally cast to do this movie, but backed out.

The supporting cast was first rate as well. Diane Lane has always been a personal favorite. Dennis Miller provided wonderful comic relief, and Alan Alda was great in a role that is a departure from his norm.


Little known actress Mary Moore (only 3 credits at IMDb) is seen topless in a dark love scene as the title credits roll, and then again on a slab in the morgue.

Scoopy's comments in yellow: (SPOILERS)

Despite the 0% critical approval, I enjoyed this movie, and recommend it with one proviso. You have to suspend your disbelief completely, and I mean completely. The film is not meant to be a realistic portrayal of upper level political and criminal intrigue in the halls of the White House. It is pure escapist fare. Example: at one point, the President says "arrest him", and the Secret Service puts Snipes in handcuffs. The president says "no, not him, him", indicating the national security advisor. Yeah, right.

In reality, the secret service could not put a lid on the homicide investigation of the President's son as they did in this movie. The D.C. police couldn't do much about the Feds' muscle, but they would only need to make two phone calls to get complete co-operation from them: (1) USA Today (2) CNN. In fact, they wouldn't even have to make those phone calls, only to threaten to.

Of course, the White House can not afford to have a policeman go on Larry King and say "the president's son is the #1 suspect in a murder investigation, but the secret service is blocking the investigation". The press would go on a feeding frenzy, and a Democratic president's approval polls would drop until his only support came his wife and Carville. And his wife would be shaky. The correct political strategy would be to co-operate fully in return for complete discretion and a press blackout. If a president does eventually find out that his son is a murderer, and turns him over to the police voluntarily, his approval rating would go up, not down. We Americans are so unused to any signs of integrity from our politicians that we lionize even the most routine acts of simple honesty.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Full-screen format and an anamorphic (1.85) widescreen version

The details of the plot are formulaic Hollywood bullstuff. We find out that the Secret Service agent assigned to Snipes is an Olympic Gold Medal sharpshooter. We find out that Snipes is an expert in the architectural history of Washington. We find out that Snipes' apartment building will be torn down to make a parking lot for a federal agency. All of these details are necessary for the contrived plot. As soon as you hear each of these facts revealed in the plot exposition, you can predict their future role in the film.

I do agree with Junior, however, that the film is much better than the critics would have you believe. The preposterous story did keep me glued to the set, even though I knew better, and the characterizations from Snipes and the underused Miller were entertaining.

Hell, what more do you need from escapist fare?

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 2/4,


The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: it grossed $25 million, disappointing for a 2100 screen rollout.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C. Entertaining, if implausible, escapism.

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