Reviewed by: Michael Karounos
|Distributor:||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
“In 141 years, there’s never been a traitor in the Secret Service… Until Now.”
At a time when it seems that every thriller, comedy, and animated movie coming out of Hollywood is trying to make a political statement, “The Sentinel” is a welcome relief from the tedium of listening to third-rate activism disguised as filmmaking.
“The Sentinel” is a standard genre film whose star casting and predictable villains (Russians!) seems determined to offend no one and to make lots of money. Michael Douglas plays a Secret Service agent who gets tangled up in plots of his own and of other’s making. Kiefer Sutherland reprises his Jack Bauer role as an intense investigator who spends half the movie pointing his Glock off-camera. And Eva Longoria (of “Desperate Housewives” fame) does what she can with a vacuous role that calls for a little cleavage and even less acting as Sutherland’s assistant.
The major criticism of the movie is that it is implausible and that the characters lack emotional depth. This is true and also besides the point. “The Sentinel” is a genre move which means that it’s about plot, not character, and it’s the plot which entertains. Clark Johnson, who has done episodes of “The West Wing”, “Law and Order”, “The Shield”, and “S.W.A.T.” does a good job of keeping the action in motion from beginning to end. He also does a Hitchcock-like turn as the agent who gets murdered.
The inconsistencies in the plot have to do with certain chase sequences, while an inadequate explanation of the relationships between the President and the First Lady (Kim Basinger), between Douglas and the First Lady, and between Douglas and Sutherland leave the audience wondering… but not much. To paraphrase the English author Samuel Johnson, if you’re willing to believe that you’re actually watching ancient Romans speaking to one another on a stage, minor inconsistencies in time and space shouldn’t bother you.
The movie has a few lukewarm political references, as when a protester gets valuable face-time for signs which read “PEACE” and “No New Wars,” but such moments are only half-hearted attempts at proclaiming the movie’s innocuous liberalism. At one point, Douglas’s character smiles affectionately at a photograph of himself and Bill Clinton. Consequently, that moment more accurately defines the film’s political orientation because of the President’s endorsement of the Kyoto accord and the subsequent revelation of adultery in the White House.
Portraying the would-be assassins as Russians makes the movie seem like a remake of a 1970s movie—so 20th century that it defies belief. In an age of Islamic terrorism, Hollywood continues to ignore the violence in the news and whistles past the spectacle of its own glaring irrelevance. This fact, more than any other, is what makes the movie seem strangely detached from reality. A movie about terrorists trying to assassinate the President of the United States can only seem plausible if the terrorists are plausible. But to cast ex-KGB agents as the heavies is about as realistic as casting the Nazis or the Mafia; it’s ridiculously anachronistic.
Aside from a few profanities and the painful spectacle of Michael Douglas passionately kissing Kim Basinger, “The Sentinel” is a mildly entertaining movie whose greatest virtue is its fair-minded unwillingness to gratuitously offend either Republicans or Christians for which, I suppose, we should be grateful.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor