2006Director: Clark Johnson
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Kim Basinger
have to say, sordid—even executive—extramarital affairs, as well as Russian mob entanglements that clock in at two decades old, tend not to rank all too high on the old thrill-o-meter. The political thriller, as it were, seems to be in a bit of a stalemate the past several years. Sure, The Interpreter was all right, but this type of genre mostly has imploded. Is this because political intrigue is at an all-time low? Or is it simply that most plot elements utilized by these types of films are “recycled” or “done to death”? The truth is, you can serve up a clichéd story and still make it work as blockbuster entertainment. One just has to hit the right notes. The problem with a film like The Sentinel, the new Secret Service/Presidential Assassination flick starring Michael Douglas and Jack Bau—err…Kiefer Sutherland, is that it’s a political thriller with very little politics and precious few thrills.
It starts out well enough. Douglas plays Pete Garrison, a wise, aging Secret Service Agent whose claim to fame is taking a bullet during Reagan’s assassination attempt. He’s a dedicated man, respected around the office. The ball starts rolling when an old friend/co-worker tells him that he has something important to discuss with him after work. We all know what that means. Boom. Dead. Farewell, friend, we hardly knew ye. Additionally, we learn of Garrison’s on-going affair with First Lady, Sarah Ballentine (Kim Basinger.) Bad form, Mr.Gekko.
With the subsequent murder investigation, veteran agent David Breckinridge (Sutherland) and his reluctant rookie protégé, Jill Marin (Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives and Maxim fame) come into the picture. Without divulging too many spoilers, polygraph tests are administered, people are blackmailed, loyalties are broken, and an attempt on the President’s life is made. As a result, Douglas’ Agent Garrison ends up, predictably, on the “wrong side of the law.”
The surprisingly solid cast isn’t much at fault for The Sentinel coming up short. The inner plot mechanics bear the brunt of the blame. The story and its primary conflict move at a turtle’s pace, revealing little at each turn. That would work fine if the pay-offs were anywhere near worth your time. The film’s half-cocked and far-fetched explanations, as well as its resolutions, aren’t only sloppy, but frustrating.
There are definite shades of In the Line of Fire and The Fugitive on display. While those are good enough films, the mention of them here is hardly complimentary. The Sentinel is half of an idea stretched out to make a barely conceivable plot, replete with ho-hum action sequences and shoddily strung-together conflicts that are as ridiculous as they are negating. Douglas, who could play this role literally unconscious, makes most scenes watchable at the very least, while Sutherland is basically doing Jack Bauer, which is fine by me. What you have here is a perfectly acceptable cast at the mercy of a screenplay with a very thinly applied coat of paint, attempting to disguise itself as an exercise in suspense.
The Sentinel is in theaters across the country now.
By: Daniel Rivera
Published on: 2006-05-16