The Sentinel review, The Sentinel DVD review

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Buy your copy from Amazon.com The Sentinel (2006) starstarhalf starno starno star Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Douglas, Eva Longoria, Kim Basinger, David Rasche, Martin Donovan
Director: Clark Johnson
Rating: PG-13
Category: Suspense

Some of the best crime dramas ever (“Usual Suspects,” “Se7en,” “L.A. Confidential”) came out of theaters in the late ‘90s, but as soon as the new millennium rolled around, everything good that had been done in film was quickly being trumped by serialized television shows like “24,” “The Shield” and “The Wire.” And with the release of “The Sentinel,” you’d half-expect the film to follow that trend – it was directed by Clark Johnson, who worked on two of the three aforementioned series, and also cut his teeth on the 1998 drama “Homicide: Life on the Streets” – but unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Instead, “The Sentinel” is just another overworked thriller (with absolutely no surprises) looking to cash in on the success of co-star Kiefer Sutherland’s hit show.

Regrettably, Sutherland isn’t the star this time around, but rather Michael Douglas as Pete Garrison, a legendary Secret Service agent who is framed as the mole of a covert plot to assassinate the President of the United States (David Rasche), when all he’s really doing is banging the First Lady (Kim Basinger) on the side. A decorated hero in his day, fellow agent David Breckinridge (Sutherland) can’t bring himself to believe that this is the man behind the planned assassination, but when Garrison slips out of protective custody to launch his own investigation, Breckinridge has no choice but to bring him in.

It’s pretty clear that Garrison isn’t a traitor from the moment the film opens with an introduction of him as the main protagonist; just like how the real mole is oh-so-obvious when he appears on screen for the first time. Here’s a clue: the bad guy has to be played by an actor worth his salt, so if you’re an adept voyeur of the movie business, you’ll quickly figure out who it is. And while that might not seem like such a big problem at first, it completely rules him out as a suspect, thus eliminating any possible suspense. By making Breckinridge the lead character, and shielding Garrison’s personal life from the public eye, the chances of him being the mole increase exponentially.

The film’s still not a complete washout, though it takes a major dive towards the end of the second act when Douglas is targeted as the traitor. Joining Sutherland on the hunt is Eva Longoria as his new partner, and while she’s absolutely beautiful to look at, her character development is so shallow that it seems an unnecessary distraction. Sometimes it can’t hurt to make a little cash on the side (when you’re not starring in your own hit TV show, that is), and while Douglas could certainly use a little exposure now that the public shock of his marriage to Catherine Zeta-Jones is starting to wear off, both Sutherland and Longoria would have been better off just relaxing at the beach. Oh well, at least we have the next season of “24” to look forward to, and at least they know how to make a great crime drama.

DVD Review:
The single-disc DVD release of the film offers a pretty decent collection of special features despite the poor box office performance, including an audio commentary with director Clark Johnson and writer George Nolfi. Also included are a handful of deleted/alternate scenes (with optional commentary), and two Secret Service featurettes focusing on the tradition of the organization and protecting the President.

~Jason Zingale

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