Bill Clinton may be up to his keister in troubles, but this takes the biscuit for Hollywood-style political paranoia: A blond babe has been murdered in the White House, and all early clues in Murder at 1600 point to the President’s son (Tate Donovan), a feckless womanizer who looks like a computerized morph of Roger Clinton and a generic Kennedy male. But the early clues are wrong, of course. And it’s up to homicide cop Harlan Regis (Wesley Snipes, so you know he’s nobody’s fool) to uncover who’s really behind the mess that threatens to take down the leader of the free world (Ronny Cox, a morph of Jimmy Carter and Vince Foster). Regis is up against a lot of obstructions, none more sinister-looking than piquantly named White House chief of security Nick Spikings (Murder One‘s Daniel Benzali, a morph of Ned Beatty and Mr. Clean). But fortunately Regis has help — first from his detective partner (comedian Dennis Miller) and later, more photogenically, from sharpshooting, mellifluously named Secret Service agent Nina Chance (Jack‘s Diane Lane). Think they’ll catch their killer?

Murder at 1600 trails in the wake of Absolute Power, to which Clint Eastwood brought gobs of integrity, resulting in a ludicrous movie masquerading as an artful one. But the absence of auteur aspirations is in this serviceable thriller’s favor. As directed by Dwight Little (Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, a morph of The Day of the Dolphin and Lassie Come Home), the tension-to-action sequences unspool efficiently. And the B-team players (among them Alan Alda, Diane Baker, and Harris Yulin) do just what needs to be done, knowing full well they’re in this thing for the paycheck, not the aesthetics. B-

Murder at 1600
  • Movie
  • 107 minutes