The Sentinel (PG-13) ★½

Review Date: April 21st, 2006

These days, no salacious story to come out of Washington would ever be beyond the realm of possibility--except for this one. Michael Douglas’ first offering in three years is just what we’d expect, and that’s not a good thing.


In The Sentinel, the president (David Rasche) faces a whole new threat: the Secret Service. One of its most respected agents, Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas), is assigned to take care of the first lady (Kim Basinger), and does he ever! He has an affair with her, which, while utterly absurd, sets the real story in motion. He receives steamy photos of the two, in a blackmail scheme that he learns is part of an assassination attempt on the Prez, for which he’s being framed. The agent spearheading the investigation, David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland), grows skeptical of Garrison, whom he thinks had an affair with his wife. Before long, Garrison’s on the lam in true “it wasn’t me, it was the one armed guy” fashion. He’ll stop at nothing to clear his name and bring the bad guy(s) to justice, even if it means hooking up to the Internet from a gas station (?) via his Dell computer, the tech brand apparently most trusted by the Secret Service.


Michael Douglas is back and…the same as ever. He loves to play his roles safe, and it doesn’t get safer for him than the urbane, almost-over-the-hill pro who yells a lot. He has a stranglehold on baby boomers who’ve stuck with him through thick and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and they won’t be disappointed. Sutherland--the son of over-actors if Douglas is the father thereof--acts like he was filming on his 24 set, which will make his devoted fans just as happy. The actors engage in one shouting match, and it’s as engrossing as it is hilarious, surprisingly. There should’ve been more of that dynamic, since it’s apparently why people like these two. Eva Longoria appears in her first big movie to date, and while she shows promise, she’s dug herself a deep (pigeon)hole with Desperate Housewives: Fans long for a scantily clad drama queen, not a docile, fully clothed rookie agent. Think Sandra Bullock’s first big film role: Demolition Man.


For a brief moment, The Sentinel entertains us with an interesting and perhaps topical notion that a Secret Service agent, with clear access to the president, could be plotting an assassination. But then that’s where all the “entertaining” parts of the movie ceases, of course. S.W.A.T. director Clark Johnson is at the helm here, and he does up Washington, D.C., Hollywood-style (in addition to giving himself a brief but important role in the film). Johnson tries to insert Sentinel into his S.W.A.T. template, but S.W.A.T., for starters, was R-rated and Sentinel should’ve been. When it’s not tripping over its implausibility, The Sentinel trips over its predictability, thanks to all of its more original predecessors from which it pilfers. And there’s so much product placement that if the film doesn’t do well at the box office, we could see a ripple effect throughout the entire economy.

Bottom Line rated this film 1 1/2 stars.