It’s not Clint, but ‘Sentinel’ works

Reeling it in

Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2006

“The Sentinel”

20th Century Fox

1 hour, 48 minutes

Hmmmm. Kiefer Sutherland in the role of a no-nonsense federal agent in a race against time to protect the future of his country. Why does that sound so familiar? Oooohhh, that’s right. Aside from describing his role in this week’s movie, “The Sentinel,” it also is the plot to his hit, career-reviving TV show, “24.” Good plan, Kiefer, stick with what’s workin’.

No, as the fan-boy geeks on the net will be quick to reveal, “The Sentinel” is not “24-The Movie,” but so what? Clint Eastwood played basically the same character in every movie and no one griped at him. And besides, the real star of this political espionage romp is Michael Douglas as the “rogue” agent on the run from Kiefer’s relentless investigator.

Douglas plays Secret Serviceman Pete Garrison, one of Reagan’s bodyguards on the day he was shot, and now personal guard to the first lady. Pete’s tough, a highly trained veteran — but he’s got a secret as well, one that could bring everything crashing down around him. Sutherland plays David Breckenridge, a top Service investigator and former protege of Garrison’s. But when his mentor’s actions drive a wedge between them, it is inevitable that the two will clash eventually. Perhaps over the very life of the man they are sworn to protect! Dum dum DUUUUM!

“The Sentinel” is very dramatic; it’s taut and fraught, and just a little silly, like a political intrigue version of “Days of Our Lives.” That said, it’s also entertaining, though it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

The film throws up several red herrings in an attempt to muddy the waters over the identity of a mole in the Secret Service, but it’s not hard to figure out who the bad guy is. There are twists and turns, but typical of a B-level thriller, several don’t make sense and certain plot points are simply dropped as their usefulness is exhausted.

Sutherland, Douglas and Eva Longoria, the principals, all perform adequately. No one’s winning any awards for this, and they know it, so it’s simply by the numbers filmmaking.

Kim Basinger, as the first lady, tries to mix weepy and scared with steely resolve, but there’s really not much for her to do, so it feels like a useless effort. As the president, David Rasche, who I mostly remember as “Sledgehammer” from the 1980s TV show, is totally wasted. He used to be hilarious, but in his portrayal of a U.S. president under threat of assassination from his own men? Not one joke. Too bad.

Though I make this movie out to be less than stellar, I really shouldn’t be so hard. Though there’s nothing special about it, there’s nothing really wrong with it either. It travels a well worn path, and certainly won’t lose you along the way. It’s just that this genre can be done better. “The Fugitive,” for one, was a chase thriller that got you involved in the characters, and didn’t let you off the hook, even for a second. “In the Line of Fire,” starring the aforementioned Eastwood, is far more engaging political intrigue, and even has a similar plot line.

In comparison,“Sentinel” is in the game, but definitely a step below. But, if you are in the mood for light intrigue in a dependable action thriller, “The Sentinel” won’t let you down. And, if you’re in the mood for more of Kiefer Sutherland doing essentially the same thing, check out Fox on Monday nights. Grade: B-

“The Sentinel” is rated PG-13 for violence, brief language and brief sensuality.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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