Sentinel, The (2006)

Reviewed By William Goss
Posted 04/28/06 14:43:29

"Secret Self-Service"
3 stars (Average)

Adapted from Gerald Petievichís novel, 'The Sentinel' is an alleged action thriller, and quite a familiar one at that. Although the plot is more trite than tense, the outcome is surprisingly tolerable, serving up standard thrills with no frills. However, one can only hope that films like this wonít lead Hollywood to equate the pedestrian with the passable. Thatíll be the day.

Director Clark Johnson (S.W.A.T.) and writer George Nolfi (Oceanís Twelve and Ė shudder Ė Timeline) stretch some mildly intriguing exposition over the first forty minutes, as Secret Service agent Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) tries to weed out the Serviceís inaugural traitor while his ex-partner David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) cooperates in the investigation, all the while giving him flack for a grudge that turned their friendship sour. Soon, the evidence begins to point to Garrison himself, so he goes on the lam to clear his name and prevent the traitor from executing a plot to assassinate el Presidente. Once the chase aspect kicks in, the film becomes less clumsy, although no more original, and The Sentinel transforms into a modestly entertaining movie perfectly content with its very well-worn nature.

Besides the general dearth of interesting plot, the first act is interrupted with bothersome montages of Presidential death threats, and it would appear that Johnson does indeed love him some wipe transitions. In spite of this, he manages to toss all that aside when the action gets going and the effort gets made. The combination of two mildly suspenseful sequences, a mall shootout and a helicopter assault, in an effort to make up for all the chit-chat and build up slight momentum nearly works, but what made Johnsonís previous effort succeed was that S.W.A.T. maintained a consistent energy and more genuine excitement, yet without condescending to its audience (well, not too much). The Sentinel doesnít quite accomplish that, and although it might be slightly more ambitious, it feels more artificial in its execution. (I'll cut it some slack by generally ignoring how much better In The Line of Fire did with a similar story over a decade earlier.)

To boot, the rather bland baddies lack any apparent motive for their scheme, and the mole can be all too easily fingered by their appearance within the filmís trailer. Still not sure? Give the opening credits a read. If that doesnít do the trick, youíve got about ninety minutes to boil it down. Ready, set, go! Although casting practically spoils that surprise, it generally serves the rest of the film well. Douglas isnít quite Harrison Ford in Firewall yet, never behaving any younger or gruffer than he actually is. Sutherland plays his one note so very well, actually bringing a welcome chemistry to his confrontations with Douglas. Eva Longoria pulls double duty as the requisite rookie/fine female, and Kim Basinger merely gets the job done as the First Lady.

Following Basingerís example, 'The Sentinel' merely gets the job done as genre fare. Sometimes, its relatively small scale suits it, while at other times, one wishes it would be bigger and bolder and, well, better than it is. Aim a little higher next time, Mr. Johnson. You just missed the mark.

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