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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Drama > Spy > The Sentinel (2006/Theatrical Film Review)

The Sentinel (2006)


Stars: Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, Kim Basinger

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 U.S. president.


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 well.


Douglas plays veteran Secret Service agent Pete Garrison, who took a bullet for President Reagan in 1981. Currently, hes 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 is not.


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?


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