Murder at 1600 is a 1997 action film starring Wesley Snipes, Diane Lane, Dennis Miller, Ronny Cox, Daniel Benzali, and Alan Alda. The 1600 in the title refers to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the address of the White House. The film is based on the novel Murder in the White House by Margaret Truman, daughter of U.S. President Harry S. Truman. The film was directed by Dwight H. Little and written by Wayne Beach and David Hodgin.
In a restroom in the White House in Washington, D.C., a janitor finds White House secretary Carla Town (Mary Moore) dead. Metropolitan Police homicide Detective Harlan Regis, whose apartment house is awaiting demolition in favor of a parking lot, is put on the case. At the White House, Regis is introduced to U.S. Secret Service Director Nick Spikings, U.S. National Security Advisor Alvin Jordan and Secret Service agent Nina Chance. Spikings assigns Chance, a former Olympic gold-class sharpshooter, to keep an eye on Regis.
Parallel to this, the White House has to deal with an impending international crisis: U.S. President Jack Neil (Ronny Cox) has been trying to deal with a situation where Americans are being held hostage in North Korea, and some people—including several members of his inner circle, led by Vice President Gordon Dylan—think the President is not handling it the right way. Some people think Neil should send troops to North Korea to rescue the hostages; he does not want to start a potential 2nd Korean War, and is disgusted that a high-ranking military official says that the main reason to act decisively is to send a message to North Korea's only ally, China.
White House janitor Cory Allen Luchessi was apparently unaccounted for on the night of the murder and had once attempted to make a pass at Carla; he is arrested and questioned, but his testimony and a clearly set-up piece of evidence lead Regis to suspect that the Secret Service may be involved. That night, Regis finds his apartment burglarized; the culprit escapes, and in a subsequent search, a hidden bug is found.
In a picture of Carla, Regis sees Secret Service agent Burton Cash, the Secret Service agent assigned to Kyle Neil, the son of President Neil and First Lady Kitty Neil. Regis figures out that it was Kyle who had sex with Carla on the night of the murder. At the dance club, Regis talks to a young woman who says that Kyle once bragged that he shared Carla with his father. Carla's uncle's company, Brookline Associates, is President Neil's leading East Coast fundraiser and Brookline also owns the apartment Carla lived in.
Regis eventually discovers that Chance once used to be Kyle's bodyguard herself. When he confronts her, Chance explains that one night, she heard noises coming from Kyle's apartment, went in, and found Kyle beating up his girlfriend. The agent asked to be reassigned and was replaced by Burton Cash, and the Secret Service covered up the beating for Kyle so he would not be arrested for assault and battery. This sparks Regis' suspicion that Kyle may actually be Carla's murderer.
Regis confronts Kyle with his suspicions, who claims that he did not murder Carla, but is able to provide a special piece of information: among the bookings she made, Carla has supposedly also ordered a car - with the only hitch being that she had had no driver's license. Later on, Regis and Chance discover that the most recent entries in Carla's appointment book were forged. With some clues left by Alvin Jordan, Regis manages to find out that Spikings has withheld several surveillance video tapes from the night of the murder. Regis goes to Spikings's residence to question him, and Spikings is willing to show him the tape but is suddenly killed by a sniper.
Regis and Chance escape the gunfire with Spikings's tape, and when played, discover that Jordan is behind everything, but things get the more difficult for them as the National Security Advisor has now framed the detective and the agent as traitors. Jordan wants Neil to resign so Dylan can take over as President, because Dylan would not be afraid to send troops to North Korea to rescue the hostages, and Jordan believes that Neil's refusal to rescue the hostages by force makes Neil unfit to be President.
Regis, Chance, and Regis's partner and friend Stengel enter the White House tunnels while Jordan still tries using fabricated evidence to blackmail Neil into resigning as President. In the tunnels, the sniper who killed Spikings for Jordan pursues them and wounds Stengel, but Chance manages to kill him. Pursued by the Secret Service, Regis just barely manages to get in contact with the President and present him with the evidence of Jordan's conspiracy. Jordan attempts to shoot the President, only for his shot to be intercepted a handcuffed Chance. Jordan is then killed by the Secret Service.
Chance and Stengel are brought to a hospital, where they recover from their injuries. In gratitude for his rescue, the President promises Regis to look into the commission who bought Regis's building.
- Wesley Snipes as Detective Harlan Regis
- Diane Lane as Agent Nina Chance
- Daniel Benzali as Agent Nick Spikings
- Dennis Miller as Detective Stengel
- Alan Alda as National Security Adviser Alvin Jordan
- Ronny Cox as President of the United States Jack Neil
- Diane Baker as First Lady Kitty Neil
- Tate Donovan as Kyle Neil
- Harris Yulin as General Clark Tully
- Tom Wright as Agent Cooper
- The film received mixed mediocre reviews. It was noted as having come out in a time where there were too many similar films coming out at the time such as Air Force One, Shadow Conspiracy and Absolute Power (the latter of which was also based on a novel).
Background information and notesEdit
- Producer Arnold Kopelson was attracted by the Murder at 1600 for considering that "lately, the White House has been vulnerable to a surprisingly wide variety of assaults," and along with producer Arnon Milchan offered the script to director Dwight H. Little, who accepted as despite his action film experience he never did a suspense "and political thrillers are probably my favorite movie genre; I love those seminal conspiracy movies of the '70s." The filmmakers then invited Wesley Snipes considering him to have the physicality, intelligence and humor required for Harlan Regis, and Snipes accepted for the depth of the character and "the opportunity to do a suspense role, which is usually reserved for more mature actors." Diane Lane was attracted by the role of Agent Chance because "she stands by her personal code," and Lane had the markswoman experience required for the role.
- Although filming had scenes in Washington, D.C., primary locations were in Toronto, Canada and nearby locations in Ontario. As Absolute Power was occupying the Oval Office set built for Dave, a new Oval Office was built in the Cinespace studios in Kleinburg. The film crew made many visits to the White House for reference in making what production designer Nelson Coates described as "the most architecturally accurate" recreation of the room. The Oval Office still stands at the studio, and has been used in productions such as Dick and The Sentinel.
- The film was well received at the box office. It opened at No. 3 with $7,962,268 in its opening weekend and went on to make a total of $25,804,707 in the US.
Murder at 1600 received generally poor reviews from critics, as it holds a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
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