The Sentinel (2006)
Stars: Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, Kim
Director: Clark Johnson
Critic's rating: 3 out of 10
Review by Chuck O'Leary
The Sentinel is not a remake of the lousy 1977 horror film
of the same name, and it's also not an improvement.
This Sentinel is one of two thrillers filmed last
year revolving around a U.S. Secret Service agent who becomes embroiled in a
nefarious plot. The other is called End Game, which
goes directly to DVD on May 2, and stars Cuba Gooding Jr., James Woods, Burt
Reynolds and Anne Archer. End Game begins with a
presidential assassination, while The Sentinel is
about trying to prevent the assassination of a fictional
It makes you wonder how bad End Game
really is for Sony to relegate it to the direct-to-DVD graveyard, because The
Sentinel could easily be pass for a generic straight-to-DVD
release if it wasn't for the presence of Michael Douglas.
Directed on automatic pilot by Clark Johnson (2003's S.W.A.T.),
and shot with all the panache of a made-for-television movie, The
Sentinel is quite possibly the worst movie the usually-reliable
Douglas has ever done. After a three-year hiatus, it's hard to believe The
Sentinel was the best script available to him. Nevertheless, Douglas
thought enough of this project to not only star, but to co-produce it as
Douglas plays veteran Secret Service agent Pete Garrison, who took
a bullet for President Reagan in 1981.
Currently, he’s assigned to guarding the First Lady (Kim Basinger),
wife of fictional President Ballentine (David Rasche, best remembered as
TV's Sledge Hammer, reviewed elsewhere on this site).
Garrison is also secretly sleeping with the First Lady.
When a fellow agent (played by director Johnson) is rubbed out, a
former friend and colleague now feuding with Garrison named David Breckinridge
(Kiefer Sutherland) is put in charge of the investigation. As
Breckinridge breaks in a new partner, Jill Marin (Eva Longoria of TV's Desperate
Housewives), he comes to suspect there's a traitorous mole
within the Secret Service. And after Garrison fails a polygraph
test lying to conceal his affair with the First
Lady, Breckinridge becomes convinced Garrison is the mole.
Garrison then goes on the lam to clear his name. What
unfolds is never the least bit believable, and results in yawns and
wristwatch checks when it should be generating suspense.
The Sentinel is bits and pieces of countless other
thrillers, but what really hurts the film is its lack of a decent
villain. Unlike in the far superior In the Line of Fire
(1993), where John Malkovich played a loathsome and menacing foil to Clint
Eastwood's empathetic veteran Secret Service agent, those plotting against
the president in The Sentinel are a poorly
defined "cartel," consisting of a bunch of Caucasian males with
dueling accents. It's hard to imagine a less-interesting,
less-credible bunch of heavies.
The Sentinel is based on a novel by Gerald Petievich, who
wrote an earlier novel that was the basis for To Live and Die in
L.A. (1985, also reviewed elsewhere on this site), a terrific
action-thriller about the lesser-known wing of the Secret Service that
investigates money counterfeiting. Directed by William Friedkin, and
adapted to the screen by Friedkin and Petievich, To Live and
Die in L.A. is stylish, energetic, tough and exciting. In other
words, it's everything the uninspired, by-the-numbers The Sentinel
This latest interpretation of Petievich's work (adapted by
the screenwriter of Ocean's Twelve) ranks all the way down
there with the forgettable political-thriller dud Shadow Conspiracy
(1997) starring Charlie Sheen. Can the aforementioned End
Game be much worse?