More of the same from "The Sentinel"

by JD Warnock on April 21, 2006

in Print Reviews

Going into “The Sentinel” I thought to myself…this has the potential to be good. Michael Douglas produced the film so he obviously felt he was on to something. Keifer Sutherland is making a secret service agent movie on the heels of the uber successful “24,” a show which has brought him career-high credibility, so this script had to be totally hot to convince Sutherland to do a character so close to home, right? No, not the case at all.

I was reminded that while Michael Douglas did produce “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” he also lent his production instincts to “One Night at McCool’s.” And Keifer apparently isn’t below succumbing to “Rob Lowe syndrome” where by an actor gets a once-in-a-lifetime role on a well done television show and just when his sagging career is legitimized and where the smart play is to stay put as long as they will let him, he instead confounds expectations and does something explosively mediocre.

If we work together maybe we can fix this script!

“The Sentinel” is the worst kind of film to critique. It would be easy to rail this movie for its numerous shortcomings. For instance, rarely has a film ended with more pretty bows and all its duckies in a row. On the other hand, it also isn’t the worst thing ever. The premise was decent and the film, particularly in the middle act, was marginally entertaining. That said, shouldn’t we expect more for the price of admission? Like the recent thriller “Firewall,” “The Sentinel” has an interesting concept and a heavy-hitting A-list cast. Instead of living up to the theory of “The Sentinel, ” this and films like it are extremely disappointing because they prove that big stars and a good story idea do not a great film make.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll be forced to say again, Hollywood has got to be more conscious of the fact that most movie goers have already paid their cable bill. Shows like “Without A Trace,” “Lost,” and “C.S.I.” (and the list goes on and on) are examples of well-written dramatic television with monster production budgets and riveting characters. “The West Wing” has done White House drama with class and swagger for seven seasons, and that’s the current height of the bar. You really can’t shoot below it without looking foolish.

“The Sentinel” has scenes in the White House that look like they were done for “Independence Day 3” produced by the Sci-Fi Channel. Washy, bright colors and the guy who played “Sledgehammer” as the president– are you freaking kidding me? Why go to the theater if TV is kicking feature film ass every night of the week? I’m guessing the answer is…”the big stars.” In that case, please see the theory previously noted above.

Douglas and Sutherland do admirable work in the film, but they can’t outshine the problems with the plot and pacing. “The Sentinel” has the most cut-and-paste, two dimensional villains imaginable and it is quickly transparent which guy on the inside is the rat. This film has no balance, no yin and yang as it were. If it were an apartment, it would be totally devoid of any feng shui.

The First Lady is played by Kim Basinger, who spends most of the film vacillating back and forth between an stupefied emotionless state, as if her character is impaired by a handful of Valium, and a freaking-out state complete with trembling fingers waving frantically in front of a vacant look of fear. I think now more than ever that “L.A. Confidential” director Curtis Hanson gave her the role of her career in that film, because Basinger hasn’t lived up to Oscar-winner status before or since. The aspect of the plot that involves the First Lady and Douglas’ Secret Service Agent is preposterous and frankly insulting.

The description of “The Sentinel” from the trailer or a summary you may read elsewhere could convince you, as it did me, there was hope. As I said, its not entirely unentertaining, it’s just incredibly hard to defend.

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