What if someone were murdered in the White House? Dwight Little’s Murder At 1600 explores this notion with considerably less flair that Clint Eastwood’s Absolute Power but is still a solid, enjoyable thriller that doesn’t break new ground but works mostly thanks to a terrific leading turn from Diane Lane and a good one from Wesley Snipes. He’s a DC homicide cop, she’s an ex Olympic sharpshooter turned Secret Service agent and together they’re tasked with finding out why a mystery girl turned up savagely killed in the wee hours. Of course any murder in such a high profile location is going to be one elaborate mystery filled with many agendas, that of the president himself (a surprisingly low key Ronny Cox), his kid (Tate Donovan), his top general (Harris Yulin), secretary of defence (a scheming Alan Alda), the shady head of secret service (Daniel Benzali) and others. Does it all add up and make sense once the final bullet has been fired? Well, technically yes but there’s a few cliche eye roll bits along the way, like that classic final beat where the bad guy, all but thwarted, makes a last minute dash for someone’s gun and causes one final ruckus. The story works well enough and although it kind of dips into hectic, run of the mill action later on it still holds interest enough. Honestly Diane Lane makes it worthwhile, I could watch her in anything, she’s that good, and the earnestly platonic chemistry she has with Snipes works big time. I enjoyed a nice cameo in the opener from SNL vet Charles Rocket too, who died under weird circumstances and I’ve always enjoyed as the sleazy bad guy in Dumb & Dumber. Decent flick.
John Frankenheimer’s Dead Bang makes no apologies for the straight up, down n’ dirty, violently obnoxious ninety minutes of rural crime mayhem it throws at you, containing no lofty subtext, tongue in cheek send ups or heady plot twists, purely and simply Don Johnson wiping out a gang of backwoods white supremacists and pissing off every superior officer along the way. A cop film to it’s roots, it’s a refreshing little diversion for Frankenheimer, who is known for taking on genre outings with ambitious undertones. Johnson is a flippant big city cop sent to the sticks to smoke out some neo-nazi assholes who are running guns, killing folks and all that fun stuff. He’s paired with a hysterically fussy FBI handler (William Forsythe, cast against type and loving it), and at odds with the psychotic ringleader of this gang (real life drill instructor Frank Military, also a solid actor), who proves to be quite a fly in the ointment. The action is rough and tumble and thoroughly R-rated, the villains are formidably nasty and Johnson’s cheeky super cop is wearily exasperated most of the time, out for the count but just gripping the edge as he hunts these yokels and deals with red tape including a department appointed shrink (Bob Balaban) who he hilariously mocks for looking like the Monopoly Guy in the film’s funniest bit, a riotous interlude. There’s scattershot work from Penelope Ann Miller, Mickey Jones, Michael Jeter, Tate Donovan and Garwin Sanford as well. Not a well known effort from firebrand Frankenheimer (I’ve heard some unbelievable stories from this set) but a really enjoyable shoot em up that deserves a far better rep.
G-Men From Hell is.. well, pretty much exactly what the title suggests. Based on a comic book, I think, it concerns two melodramatic 1950’s FBI Agents named Dean Crept (William Forsythe) and Mike Mattress (Tate Donovan) who are gunned down by mysterious assailants, and sent off to the inferno to rot, only they aren’t finished their business earth-side, and escape using some magic dimension opening crystal. Once back in the realm of the living, they set up their own private detective agency, forced to keep up their good deed quota in order to prevent from being dragged off again. The Devil (Robert Goulet, hilarious) is furious and dispatches an agent of his own to retrieve them. Meanwhile, a relentless and fairly nutty police detective (Gary Buddy) is also hot on their trail. Busey, as usual, flips the script into the dustbin and does his own warped thing with the dialogue, making scene partners visibly try to hold in laughter and bewilderment, proving once again that any film he appears in will never get boring. Forsythe and Donovan play it like Looney Toons in noir mode, two campy gumshoe performances that are so knowingly tongue in cheek that it almost seems like a stage play. Cameos include Bobcat Goldthwait, David Huddleston, Kari Wuhrur, Charles Fleischer, Frank McCrae and Vanessa Angel. I feel like the whole thing is just a bit silly to work, even as one big riotous in-joke, but it’s a colourful diversion nonetheless, and any film with that title deserves a watch as an ode to it’s sheer commitment to blatant inanities. Please excuse the pitiful lack of high def photos in my collage, whoever was in charge of screen caps and production stills on this should be shot in the face.