(Air Date: 4/16/97)
When I heard that Wesley Snipes was going to be in the new action thriller, "Murder at 1600," I had some mixed feelings. Sure, Snipes has had a good role or two, but my overall impression of his career tends to be colored by movies like "Demolition Man" and "The Drop Zone" rather than "The Waterdance" or "Jungle Fever."
And when I heard that the director was going to be Dwight Little, who last did "Free Willy 2," that sealed it. This was going to be a eye-roller, a watch-checker, a movie that I probably wouldn't even watch if it were on free TV. Yes, even us movie reviewers have negative expectations from time to time.
Then I saw the movie, and I was actually pleasantly surprised. The opening sequence is just weird and pretty much out of place. But once things started rolling, there is actually a fair amount of tension and suspense.
Director Little and screenwriters Wayne Beach and David Hodgin went pretty much by the book in creating the mood and the settings for a political murder mystery. Little has experience with action sequences, having directed "Rapid Fire" and "Marked for Death," and there are more than enough scattered through this movie to keep a cynical guy like me from checking his watch. And there were plenty of red herrings and plot twists to keep me on my toes.
Snipes, as a DC homicide detective, is his usual wisecracking self. Costar Diane Lane, as a Secret Service agent, doesn't have to do much else besides sharpshooting and looking intense, and she's able to handle that without any problems. There's a steady supporting cast that includes Alan Alda, Dennis Miller, and Daniel Benzali, the bald guy from "Murder One".
Oh, it won't win any awards, and the plot doesn't stand up to a whole lot of scrutiny. Isn't it convenient that the bad guys all die before they can explain any of their mysterious and often illogical actions? I knew government guys were dumb, but not that dumb.
But "Murder at 1600" is a workmanlike suspense thriller with enough entertainment value to at least keep me interested for an hour 42 minutes. And that's much better than what I expected.
Copyright 1997 Alex Lau
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