By now, the words “White House” and “cover-up” go together like “Hale” and “Bopp.”
The cover-up in “Murder at 1600” involves a murder. Wesley Snipes is the cop whose investigation keeps getting stonewalled, and Diane Lane is the Secret Service insider who helps him. Among the suspects: the president and his wife (Ronny Cox and Diane Baker); their randy son (Tate Donovan), who was having an affair with the victim; the National Security Advisor (Alan Alda); and the head of White House security (Daniel Benzali).
Obviously, the idea of a murder in the White House is problematic, logic-wise. How could anyone as closely monitored as the president pull off faking an alibi? With wall-to-wall G-men, how could an intruder sneak in to pull off the crime (the movie makes penetrating the White House look about as difficult as penetrating an ice-cream social)? And, with video cameras monitoring every room, wouldn’t the whole crime be captured on film?
After “Absolute Power” and “Murder at 1600,” it may be time to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate murder-in-the-Oval Office movies, but there’s plenty to enjoy here. “Murder at 1600” moves right along, and the action is refreshingly devoid of the inane wisecracks that usually litter these movies. Lane and Snipes don’t take themselves too seriously - both give bemused, efficient performances. And although Benzali has had his sense of humor surgically removed, he gives an effectively whispery, ominous performance.
Even if the script’s twists and turns occasionally seem dippy and contrived, the movie ends up being realistic in a most unexpected way. The White House denizens of “Murder at 1600” spend so much time with internal machinations and in-house investigations that you wonder when they get around to running the country. Sound familiar?
Should you go? On a presidential scale, with Abraham Lincoln as excellent and Millard Fillmore as terrible, it’s a good, solid Dwight D. Eisenhower.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Murder at 1600” Locations: East Sprague, North Division, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls Cinemas Credits: Directed by Dwight Little, starring Wesley Snipes, Diane Lane, Alan Alda, Daniel Benzali Running time: 1:37 Rating: R