The Movie Buffer

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Sentinel


If this review doesn't spoil the movie, it has failed


From some of the hype I was hearing this movie was supposed to be like a “24” style cop flick with twists and turns but it ended up a crummy action film with a few cops in it. The studio, 20th Century Fox, fumbled what could have been a huge money maker and now, I predict, they won’t turn a profit. With so many cop shows being produced, the director should have hired someone as a consultant for this movie to say, “Whoa, whoa, now does this make sense? Does this help of hurt the story?”. If this had been the case, the consultant would have nipped this movie in the bud.

The director of this film, Clark Johnson, must be a fan of cop shows because this movie is stylized, framed and shot in exactly the same way ( * I looked it up and apparently he has done several for TV). The only innovation to the genre that this director brings to the table is a bit of fade in/out material with hand scrawled notes about murdering the president and the crazy talk of a madman that is telling us what his next move is. This movie is laden with all kinds of cop stereotypes: The wily veteran, the brash young officer with something to prove, the token black guy, the token Arabic guy, the hot and competent female lead, and the list goes on. Stereotypes like these are omnipresent in film so you come to accept them, but in this case they ring hollow more than ever. As the viewers, we quickly realize what’s what so when the story tries to switch tracks, which happens early and often, the movie comes to a screeching halt. This film was not constructed in a way that could sustain interest for almost 2 hours.

The actors in the film are unconvincing and over dramatic. Every line looks forced and sounds even worse. In terms of dialogue this was one of the worst movies, this year, for building up characters via conversation and interaction. Kiefer Sutherland plays a by the book Secret Service officer who made the lead investigator in a case that balloons from a homicide to treason/attempted assassination of the President of the United States. Sutherland’s foil in this picture is Michael Douglas as a seasoned Secret Service agent who gained prominence as being the guy that took the bullet for Reagan. Douglas becomes tangled in this story because he is having an affair with the president’s wife, played by Kim Basinger. There is apparently tension between Sutherland and Douglas over an event in the past but they never fully explain this or how it changed the character’s relationship other than it made them angry at each other. Eva Longoria plays a rookie agent who asks to be placed under the tutelage of Sutherland. Longoria quickly learns that he is a strict follower of protocol and her sloppy style does not impress him. Bless her pretty face and her courage doing this movie, but she’s just not good at this kind of role. As shown on her show Desperate Housewives, she can do dramatic type roles but in this action movie she barely gets her head above the water. The villains in this flick are a triumvirate of utterly forgettable ex-KGB officers and their mole in the Secret Service. They end up blending into the background noise of the movie.

There are two good parts of the movie, but they won’t impress everyone. The first positive in this movie was the panning shot of Toronto’s sky line. I don’t think I’ve seen a better one. They made the city look half decent. The next was the small section of the movie that was the introduction of Longoria’s character. Sutherland pokes fun at her inappropriate attire and her obvious bookish academic/professional career. It’s worth a giggle, maybe even a chuckle.

Overall, this movie was a dry, disappointing pseudo-action thriller, without the twists or flair of any of other movies in the genre. It deserves 1/10 or zero stars. I went into this movie expecting a more intriguing storyline, with some false leads, a red herring or two and a solid cast playing characters that are interesting if not entertaining to watch. I cannot recommend this movie to anyone on those grounds. Fans of the genre may be able to pull more out of it than I can but for the casual viewer, save your money for “The Inside Man”.


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