It used to be that when you were reviewing a generic, boringly efficient low-rent movie, you could just compare it to something made for TV and people got the picture. But in the age of HBO and series that are often much better crafted than a lot of what’s in theaters, this doesn’t cut it anymore. If I wrote that “The Sentinel” is like a bad episode of 24, that would be a compliment! So there you have it, this flick isn’t basically your average TV thriller, it’s even worse than that.
Then why does Kiefer Sutherland squander his reignited star power by appearing in such derivative mediocrity? You’d think he’d want to put his hiatus from 24 to better use than playing another Secret Service agent running around trying to save the day. Maybe he felt he owed it to producer Michael Douglas, who also produced “Flatliners”, one of the movies that put Sutherland in the spotlight in the first place. But what about Douglas, couldn’t he use his clout to get something more interesting greenlighted?
Anyway, “The Sentinel” is about an old Secret Service agent (Douglas) who once took a bullet for Reagan and is still assigned to the President’s close protection… Or more precisely, to the First Lady (Kim Basinger, barely registering). Whom he’s fucking – Michael Douglas characters are always fucking something. When it’s revealed that there’s a plot to assassinate the President and that there’s a mole in the secret service, Douglas’ fucking-the-First-Lady related suspicious behaviour makes him the prime suspect. So it’s a little bit “The Fugitive”, with Sutherland in the Tommy Lee Jones part, and a little bit In the Line of Fire, with no one in the John Malkovich part. There is a villain, but he’s so insignificant that he doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Malkovich. The reveal of the mole is equally lame, and totally predictable.
So people run, people hide, people get shot, there’s American flags everywhere, Eva Longoria’s ass makes an extended cameo, Michael Douglas carries cups of Starbucks product placement around… Nothing to see here. A gifted filmmaker might have used this routine material and managed to at least make it into an interesting exercise in style but Clark Johnson, who directed “SWAT” and mostly a lot of TV (which fits with my earlier remarks), has no style to speak of, let alone exercise. Worse, the confusingly frantic camerawork and the shifty editing undermine any potential suspense. Again, this would barely be an okay time-waster when there’s nothing else on TV, but there’s no reason to go out and pay $10 to see this.