Sentinel, The (2006)

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 04/21/06 03:57:39

"Yep, another dangerous game of cat & mouse"
3 stars (Just Average)

With its breakneck pacing, a convoluted conspiracy-themed plot and the presence of Kiefer Sutherland as a tough-as-nails Federal agent racing against time to stop the bad guys and save the day, the new thriller “The Sentinel” is likely to be compared by many to the hit TV series “24.” Unfortunately, this by-the-numbers film is closer to one of those mid-season episodes where the producers are essentially marking time–usually by giving characters amnesia or sticking Elisha Cuthbert in a cougar trap–until they can get back to the good stuff towards the end.

Michael Douglas stars as agent Pete Garrison, a Secret Service legend who once took a bullet for Reagan and who is now assigned to protect and serve the First Lady (Kim Basinger), a job that he goes about with great enthusiasm, if you know what I mean. As the film opens, he gets wind of a potential conspiracy to assassinate the President (David Rasche) that may involve someone inside the Secret Service. Heading up the investigation is David Breckenridge (Sutherland), an ace agent who used to be Garrison’s best friend and protégée until a rift developed between them. As the investigation goes on, the evidence begins to suggest that Garrison himself is the mole and when Breckenridge and his new partner, a hot tomato rookie played by Eva Longoria, comes to take him into custody, he gives them the slip and disappears. While Breckenridge, convinced that Garrison is a traitor and potential assassin who has a working knowledge of how to avoid his pursuers, tries to bring him in, Garrison struggles to turn some shred evidence that will clear his name and point to the real culprits before they can strike at the G8 summit meeting in Toronto.<

All of this is told with a certain modest efficiency by director Clark Johnson but what does “The Sentinel” in is its utter predictability. We have seen Michael Douglas so many times playing morally flawed characters who nevertheless turn out to do the right thing when the chips are down that there is never any point when we find ourselves thinking that he could plausibly be the assassin. We can turn on the TV every week to see Kiefer Sutherland playing a ruthless and professional agent who is nevertheless willing to bend the rules in order to keep the plot going and it becomes frustrating to watch him perform actions that no person as hard-ass and rule-oriented as he claims to be would ever do. The predictability extends beyond the casting–it even trots out the old chestnut of the black partner who tells Douglas’s character early on that he has a hunch about something important, just not important enough to tell him about right at that moment. And if you can’t figure out who the real villain of the piece is by the end of the first real, you really need to get out more often. The only unpredictable thing in the film is the Eva Longoria character and that is only because she is so utterly superfluous to the proceedings–she seems to have been brought in only to supply the T&A that ordinarily would have been handled solely by the relatively wasted Basinger.

“The Sentinel” is based on a novel by Gerald Petievich, an ex-Secret Service agent whose work also formed the basis for William Friedkin’s masterful 1985 thriller “To Live and Die in L.A.” Like that earlier work, “The Sentinel” features plenty of little details about the day-to-day life of field agents. However, the difference between the two is that the earlier film used those details in the service of a story that was smart, twisty and utterly captivating while here, such bits are just sprinkled in to temporarily liven up the otherwise too-familiar proceedings.

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