The Sentinel

on April 21, 2006 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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"The Sentinel" refers to an American Secret Service agent whose job it is to protect the President. As the movie's tagline says, in its 141 years of existence, the Secret Service has never harbored a traitor -- but in this Hollywood fiction, it does. The number one suspect: respected veteran Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas), who took a bullet during the 1981 attempted assassination of President Reagan. He's guilty -- but not of treason. His sin is infidelity, specifically the clandestine affair he's having with the First Lady (Kim Basinger). It's a secret that leaves him open to blackmail and control.

While not a bad idea for a movie, "The Sentinel" undercuts its potential suspense at virtually every turn. Its plot twists are either telegraphed or hastily thrown away, its storyline is choppy to the extreme, and its characterization (Douglas aside) is non-existent. The movie's languor and stately pacing is odd, considering this is a movie about a plot to kill the nation's Chief Executive, which ought to lend it an air of urgency. But even the cast -- including a buttoned-down and washed-out Kiefer Sutherland as the agent in charge of the investigation of the mole within the Secret Service, and the perpetually boring Eva Longoria ("Desperate Housewives") as a rookie agent -- seems to sense that there's not much excitement on tap here. Perhaps "24," Sutherland's phenomenally popular TV show which has regularly wrung superior thrills out of plots like those in "The Sentinel," has set the bar really high for this type of movie. Either that, or it needs a more visceral director than Clark Johnson ("S.W.A.T.") to guide the proceedings. As it is, it's a competent but charmless, emotionally flat and dull concoction. Starring Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, Kim Basinger and David Rasche. Directed by Clark Johnson. Written by George Nolfi. Produced by Michael Douglas, Marcy Drogin and Arnon Milchan. A Fox release. Thriller. Rated PG-13 for intense action violence and a scene of sensuality. Running time: 108 min

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