Director(s): Clark Johnson
Writer(s): George Nolfi
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Apr 21, 2006 - Wide
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In Fox’s The Sentinel, the Secret Service turns itself inside out to find an enemy within. When all clues seem to point towards the guilt of Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas), a veteran agent having an affair with the First Lady, he has to work hard to clear his name while also finding the real threat to the man he’s sworn to protect.
Kiefer Sutherland plays David Breckinridge, an agent of the Secret Service’s investigative branch. He has a person axe to grind with his ex-friend Garrison, and he begins a relentless pursuit teamed up with rookie agent Jill Marin (Eva Longoria). Kim Basinger plays the cheating First Lady, a woman whose relationship with her husband is so chilly, they make the Clintons look like the Care Bears.
When the President of the United States is played by the star of the detective spoof Sledge Hammer!, David Rasche, it only makes sense that the Secret Service sometimes comes across like the Keystone Cops. One moment we’re being dazzled by the high tech gadgets, awesome arsenal, and undeniable bravery of the Secret Service, the next moment they slip up in some way that will conveniently move the plot along. Sutherland’s investigator harshly points out so many fellow agents’ errors that it’s amazing they don’t stick their tongues out at him behind his back.
In the era of the war on terrorism, The Sentinel could have been an exciting, taut thriller about the plots against the President and how the agency that’s always looking for external threats must turn its mirror-shaded gaze inwards. Instead, we’re given a thinly drawn President that leaves us wondering what he’s doing to face assassination. We don’t know much about the man’s policies until the film is almost over and even then it’s not about some sociopolitical culture clash issue but rather a quick pronouncement that “We must ratify the Kyoto Accord.” Great, so we know the screenwriter drives a hybrid.
In a move that’s sure to make Osama Bin Laden cry, “Hey! I’m Public Enemy #1”, the action out to kill the president isn’t some extremist Islamic group but rather a vague group of baddies with an unexplained grudge and decades of patience. I half expected Bill Maher to pop up and tell them that they’re just politically correct substitutes for the current crop of “Death to America” sign writers.
Pete Garrison does seem to use the home gym each morning, but for an agent who took a bullet during the Reagan Administration, the man does seem to have a stamina that exceeds his younger co-workers. In fact, Douglas’ youthfulness seems inversely proportional to how crotchety Sutherland’s character is. Meanwhile, Eva Longoria’s character must suffer through a few “sexy rookie” comments at the beginning, but that thread of the script seems to have been forgotten along the way. At least she gets to run around wielding a gun, while Kim Basinger isn’t given any time to really explain why she started playing footsie with an agent in the world’s most famous home.
With the right script, this film could have been an action-filled political thriller: a Marathon Man crossed with All the President’s Men. Though the action scenes get the adrenaline pumping, replace Douglas with Vin Diesel or The Rock and The Sentinel would really show its true colors as a fun, yet forgettable, action flick.
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