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The Sentinel (A Movie Review)


Starring Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, Kim Basinger, Martin Donovan, Paul Calderon, Ritchie Coster, Blair Brown, Kristin Lehman, David Rasche, Chuck Shamata, Raynor Scheine, Conrad Coates, Clarque (Clark) Johnson and Gloria Reuben.

Screenplay by George Nolfi.

Directed by Clark Johnson.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 108 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Even if you haven't seen Michael Douglas' new movie, you have seen Michael Douglas' new movie – if you know what I mean. Douglas has played variations of this role – the smart professional man who gets ensnared in personal, career and legal trouble due to a sexual impropriety – since Fatal Attraction was such a hit twenty years ago. From that time, we've seen Basic Instinct, Disclosure, A Perfect Murder, Don't Say a Word and others.

However, just because he seems to fall into formula sometimes, it doesn't mean that's all that he does – check out great, edgy films like Falling Down, The Game, Wonder Boys, Traffic, and the like. It also doesn't mean that he isn't very good in the paint-by-numbers films, or that they are not sometimes very well done.

The Sentinel is one of the better ones, actually. Douglas plays Pete Garrison, a long-time secret service agent who works the presidential detail. In fact, he was supposedly the officer shot in the attempted Reagan assassination by John Hinkley.

David Rasche plays the president, and it's kind of scary that the lightweight sitcom actor best known for playing Sledge Hammer! nearly twenty years ago seems so much more competent and presidential than the man currently residing in the White House.

Garrison uncovers a plot against the president's life and the possibility that there is a mole in the Secret Service. He quickly realizes that he is being framed as the informant – the problem is he is in the middle of an affair with the First Lady (Kim Basinger) and if he tries to prove his innocence it will no doubt bring their indiscretion to light.

This is the one place where the film totally flies off the credibility radar – the First Lady-affair subplot is kind of ridiculous, it should have been left out in the first rewrite of the script and it wouldn't have been missed at all.

He is soon being tracked by his former partner, David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland), with whom he has become estranged because Breckinridge suspects (inaccurately) that Garrison had an affair with HIS wife. Breckinridge goes into this vital investigation with a beautiful-but-amazingly-green new partner (Eva Longoria) who is on her first day in the new job. Further complicating things are the fact that she was mentored by Garrison, who had recommended Breckinridge as a partner.

Follow all that?

It doesn't matter really. It gets a little unnecessarily murky in places. It also gets oddly old-fashioned in others – the bad guys are actually made up for former-KGB Russians, a group that long ago lost its status as the preferred criminals in action films to militant Arabs.

Nonetheless, The Sentinel is a clever and taut thriller. The movie is directed with great style by former actor Clark Johnson – who played Det. Lewis for seven seasons on the late, great TV series Homicide: Life on the Street and also has a cameo here (billed as Clarque Johnson) as a CIA agent who pays the ultimate price when he stumbles onto the conspiracy.

The Sentinel may seem like it was created by a committee from a template for Douglas movies, but at least the committee took the time to put a slick, exciting piece of product out there. (4/06)

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2006 All rights reserved. Posted: April 27, 2006.


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