Directed by Clark Johnson. Starring Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Kim Basinger, Eva Longoria, David Rasche. (2006, PG-13, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., April 28, 2006
This serviceable action thriller about a Secret Service agent wrongly accused of conspiring to kill the president starts off promisingly but soon disintegrates into an implausible mess barely salvaged by the presence of old pros like Douglas and Basinger. The Sentinel has a provocative premise – what if there is a mole in the White House? – but it fails to fully deliver the goods, leaving you scratching your head about the whos, whats, wheres, and whys by the time of its climactic shootout. It’s a B-movie that, in the end, aspires to be nothing more. (The movie stands in stark contrast to Spike Lee’s superb Inside Man, unquestionably the best American movie of the year so far.) If you don’t think too much, however, there are simple pleasures to be had here, particularly in the sight of Douglas on the lam as a hard-nosed Sutherland (once again cast as a federal agent) is in hot pursuit. If that sounds a lot like Tommy Lee Jones chasing Harrison Ford in the 1993 film The Fugitive, it’s best to keep your expectations lowered, given the many improbabilities and incongruities that crop up in the film’s second half. Just who are those real would-be assassins with funny accents, and why do they want to murder the president? Just how can a Secret Service agent have an affair with the First Lady under the very noses of the other agents assigned to watch her every move? And why would that same First Lady go out in public to eat at a fashionable D.C. restaurant only hours after a failed assassination attempt on her and her husband’s life? (An out-of-nowhere surface-to-air missile destroys the executive helicopter midflight over Camp David – go figure.) Of course, if the actress playing our nation’s FLOTUS is the stunningly beautiful Basinger, who cares whether she exercises common sense in the course of the film? Always an intriguing (though sometimes unpolished) actress, Basinger has softened the rough edges over the years to become an extremely watchable performer who deserves better roles than those in which she appears onscreen. A movie like The Sentinel is unlikely to change things for Basinger, but we can only hope.