The Sentinel

(2006) ** Pg-13
108 min. 20th Century Fox. Director: Clark Johnson. Cast: Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Kim Basinger, Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Calderon.

The Sentinel is one of those movies you want to like, especially if you shell out ten bucks for it on a Friday night. It's directed by Clark Johnson, once a star of TV's Homicide: Life on the Street and now director of shows like The Shield and action flicks like S.W.A.T. (Johnson also has a cameo here as an ill-fated Secret Service vet). Johnson's latest also gathers some likeable, if not entirely reliable stars: Michael Douglas, Keifer Sutherland, and Kim Basinger. But no matter how much audiences may want to like The Sentinel, they'll walk out admitting it's strictly boilerplate.

Based on the novel by Gerald Petievich, The Sentinel imagines a grizzled Secret Service agent who once took a bullet from Reagan. But since Pete Garrison (Douglas) doesn't play by the rules, his act of heroism never advanced him in the ranks. Garrison's former best friend, top investigative agent David Breckinridge (Sutherland), now loathes him—for "personal reasons" and, to make matters much, much worse, Garrison is carrying on an affair with the First Lady (Basinger) he's supposed to protect.

Everything comes to a head when Garrison's twitchy informant (why are informants always twitchy?) drops the bomb that someone inside the Secret Service is conspiring with would-be Presidential assassins. Suddenly Garrison and Breckinridge are butting heads again, with rookie Jill Marin (Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives) playing referee. Matters are further complicated by the internal investigation, which Garrison fears will uncover his procedural wrongdoings with the First Lady.

Though they develop some moderately exciting action sequences, Johnson and screenwriter George Nolfi (Ocean's Twelve) fail to pursue any interesting avenues, using the cardboard characters as mere shooting-range targets. The affair turns out to be a pretext to get Garrison on the run, Fugitive-style, as he continues to investigate the assassination plot, In the Line of Fire-style.

But a tired hybrid of better movies just doesn't cut it, even with such unintentionally humorous compensations as locating the G8 summit in Toronto (Hollywood's favorite destination of runaway production), casting David Rasche (Sledge Hammer!) as the President, and paying well-meaning but transparent attentions to token Secret Service Muslim Aziz (Raoul Bhaneja). By the ridiculously hasty wrap-up, audiences will be wishing they stayed home with their TiVo and a cache of 24 episodes.

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