Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"The Sentinel" DVD Review

The Sentinel, for lack of any better description, exists as a color-by-the-numbers, this-is-how-thrillers-used-to-be-made movie, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. If you’re going to make a movie that offers so little in the way of surprise and goes heavy in the way of predictability, the least you can do is go out and get a quality cast, which the folks behind The Sentinel thankfully did. The only problem with the cast, though, was that nobody got to play to their strong points, a flaw that didn’t kill the film, but also didn’t raise the level

Michael Douglas stars as Pete Garrison, grizzled Secret Service vet and guy who was there when Reagan was shot back in the 80’s. He’s well-respected to the point he can secretly carry on an affair with the First Lady, played by an aged Kim Basinger, and nobody seems to notice or care. It is the relationships that surround Garrison that are some of the more confusing parts of the plot. Kiefer Sutherland plays his former disciple, David Breckinridge, who is now estranged from the savvy old vet due to some misunderstanding over an affair with one of their lives. It’s all sort of muddy, with the only thing you’re sure of is that the two leading men used to be close but are now in a contested relationship.

That relationship is stressed when people close to the Secret Service are slowly eliminated and word of a conspiracy to murder the president arises. After a sweet shootout in a DC mall following an attack on the presidential chopper – the action scenes, although there are not that many of them, are tightly-shot and overall extremely well done – the evidence slowly points to Garrison as the man behind the assassination plot. Douglas’ character is forced to go on the run, using all of the tricks he taught Breckinridge to avoid the Secret Service’s pursuit.

I suppose now would be the time to mention Eva Longoria’s a character, a trainee under Breckinridge who knew Garrison and gets drawn into the whole investigation. She’s not bad in role, but the movie neglects the one thing that Longoria is great at: being really hot. I understand that she probably wanted to show her range as an actress, but frankly, there isn’t a whole lot there, and they threw so many turtlenecks and pantsuits at her it literally hurt to watch. On that same note, Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t get to unleash the 24 persona most of the people going to see this movie expected. I understand that it had to be more plausible than your typical FOX plot – although it really didn’t turn out that way – but just to see a little Bauer rage would have made all the difference. Again, neither character was bad in their role and it’s wrong to judge them for not being more like their television personalities, but the anticipation was for Jack Bauer and Gabrielle Solis and you get David Breckinridge and Jill Marin.

The conspiracy winds its way to a conclusion at an international summit, and while the action part of the plot – a stairwell/rooftop shootout – is tense and enjoyable, the plot cops out on placing the blame and truly villifying anyone, giving the Secret Service traitor a completely fabricated out that takes all of the blame off of him. Perhaps the writers thought that this "twist" wasn't an out, but instead an elaborate set-up that harkened to a greater conspiracy, but there isn't enough details given to fully support. That lack of punch is probably the defining moment of a movie that doesn’t want to take any chances or ruffle any feathers, simply existing as a somewhat enjoyable time filler. Still, solid casting and solid action will get you somewhere, and here, that gets you a C+.

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