I have to admit that, seeing as how I was only 11 going on 12 back in 1997, I really wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on in the world at the time. But, whatever it was, it must have been something big and scary and it must have left people feeling deeply suspicious of the government. How else do you explain the fact that 1997 not only saw the release of Absolute Power, a film in which the President is a murderer, but Murder at 1600 as well.
Murder at 1600 opens with a White House maid finding the dead body of Carla Town (Mary Moore), an intern whose sole goal in life was apparently to have sex in every single room in the Executive Mansion. (And, before you judge, that happens to be my goal in life as well. So there.) Streetwise homicide detective Harlan Regis (Wesley Snipes) is on the case!
And he’s certainly got a lot of suspects. Could it be the Vice President (Chris Gillett)? Or maybe Alvin Jordan (Alan Alda), the National Security Advisor? Or how about Nick Spikings (Daniel Benzali), the bald-bef0re-bald-was-cool head of the Secret Service? Or maybe it the President’s son (Tate Donavon)? Or maybe even the President (Ronny Cox) himself!?
Fortunately, Regis is assigned a partner, Secret Service agent Nina Chance (Diane Lane). When Regis first meets her, he’s all, “Oh my God, you’re a woman!” And then Nina’s all, “I also won an Olympic medal for sharp shooting!” And then Regis is like, “I bet that will be a relevant plot point before the film ends!”
Of course, Regis already has a regular partner, as well. His name is Detective Stengel and he’s played by Dennis Miller, which just seems strange. Stengel basically looks like Dennis Miller, sounds like Dennis Miller, and acts exactly like Dennis Miller, except for the fact that he’s a cop. His jarringly out-of-place presence in this film just adds to Murder at 1600‘s general air of weirdness.
Meanwhile, it turns out that the North Koreans are up to no good and the President is being pressured to take military action. However, he’s being distracted by this whole criminal investigation thing. Will the country survive or did its future die at 1600?
(And why doesn’t the President just send in Team America to take care of the situation? Or maybe James Franco and Seth Rogen. There are way to deal with the North Koreans….)
(By the way, have you noticed how brave everyone online is when it comes to being snarky about the one country in the world that doesn’t have internet access? If Kim Jong Whatevuh ever gets a twitter account, I bet everyone will start following him and asking him for retweets.)
Murder at 1600 is an enjoyably ludicrous thriller. It’s one of those films that you’ll enjoy as long as you don’t take it seriously. Take it seriously and you’ll end up asking question like why the FBI isn’t involved in the investigation and whether or not the solution to the film’s mystery is a bit too convoluted to make any logical sense. However, if you simply decide to enjoy Murder at 1600 for what it is, an extremely pulpy thriller that’s full of nonstop melodrama, overwritten dialogue, and a healthy distrust of the government*, then you’ll find this to be an entertaining thriller.
At the very least, a White House full of potential murderers is probably a lot more realistic than anything that you might see in The American President.
* Oh, everyone knows the government sucks…