Wesley Snipes made a lot of good movies during the nineties. I say this because people usually just go for his biggest hits like Blade, Demolition Man or White Men Can’t Jump. Murder at 1600 is an entertaining thriller following a detective trying to solve the murder of a young girl at the White House. White House that’s located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, hence that 1600 in the title. I guess people who live outside of the US might find that bit a bit confusing. Who knew that just a couple of months later, Bill Clinton would go on to make that infamous “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” speech?
The opening twenty minutes are a bit wobbly but after that things become much, much better. Murder at 1600 is not your standard-issue political thriller. First of all, there will be a lot of action. Something that’s not that surprising when you see that the director is Dwight H. Little. He’s the guy behind such nineties hits as Marked for Death (Steven Seagal) and Rapid Fire (Brandon Lee). Secondly, we’re squarely focused on the murder investigation, trying to figure out who did it. And the movie succeeds at maintaining this shroud of mystery around the killer for a long time. Thirdly, there will be a couple of nifty twists.
You kind of expect them with these types of movies but still. The overall vibe of the movie is a bit more serious Die Hard/Lethal Weapon clone. After all, Wesley replaced Bruce Willis who was supposed to play the lead role. And he was quite good along with Diane Lane. It was also great to see Ronny Cox (RoboCop, Total Recall) play a good guy for a change. Although it feels like it, Murder at 1600 is not a movie based on a novel. There are several different subplots that all nicely fit together and the finale wasn’t too shabby either. I mean, it’s always so intriguing to watch how a murder investigation unfold if the rich and powerful are in it.
And it goes exactly how you think it would go, highlighting that the law is for ordinary citizens and not the elites. And yet, there’s this police detective who’s determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. We will be guessing who the killer is and what are their motivations right up until the end. Well, almost to the end. Ultimately, you can consider Murder at 1600 a guilty pleasure movie. Mostly because some of the elements of the story seem a bit too far-fetched. Like the movie had to honor these quirky gimmicks used by almost all nineties thrillers.
Live Wire, starring Pierce Brosnan and featuring a special kind of explosive comes to the mind first. 1997 saw the release of another movie featuring a plot about a murder in the president’s orbit. I’m talking about Clint Eastwood’s Absolute Power. Finally, I would also like to recommend you another Wesley Snipes thriller, Rising Sun. Also starring Sean Connery it follows an intriguing murder investigation that happened at a Japanese corporation headquarters.
Director: Dwight H. Little
Writers: Wayne Beach, David Hodgin
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Diane Lane, Dennis Miller, Alan Alda, Daniel Benzali, Ronny Cox, Tom Wright
Fun Facts: There was an entire subplot involving a romance between Snipes and Lane that was cut from the movie. The producers felt like that aspect of the story wouldn’t work.