Murder at 1600 - * 1/2*

The third murder-and-conspiracy at the White House film to roll out of Hollywood this year is neither the best nor the worst, but is, nonetheless, a routine and predictable affair. Harlan Regis (Wesley Snipes) is a Washington D.C. homicide detective. When a female staffer is found murdered at the White House, Regis is called in. No sooner than he arrives does he find himself in the crossfire between National Security Advisor Alvin Jordan (Alan Alda), who invited his assistance, and White House security chief Nick Spikings (Daniel Benzali), who despises anything outside his control. A secret service liason, Nina Chance (Diane Lane), is assigned to help Regis find the killer. However, when a suspect is fingered, Regis refuses to close the case, and ignites the ire of mysterious and powerful political forces. From the outset, when we are introduced to Regis in a standard nutcase-with-a-gun segment, it is obvious that there isn’t going to be much new that Murder at 1600 has to offer. However, once it gets down to business, there’s a glimmer of entertainment that begins to shine through. Though both parties overact, the power play between Alan Alda and Daniel Benzali is intriguing. The film might have done better if it played up the politics, instead of eventually burying the plot in cliches. Dwight Little’s direction doesn’t help matters, either. For example, he shoots an outdoor conversation like a DC tourist: there’s a monument prominently featured in nearly every shot. A subtler approach to the whole film would have helped. The actors, for the most part, do what they can with the material. The deepest any characterizations go are trivial quirks which you know will become important later on. The film reaches its climax with a revelation that doesn’t make much sense, and a gunbattle that will leave you groaning. The best thing about the film is that someone had the sense to axe several hideous lines from the trailers (“We’ve got a murder at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, an address that changes all the rules…”) Now if only they had some better material, those same editors could have come up with a worthwhile film.

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