A review of “The Sentinel” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language, gunplay and adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

 

 

Michael Douglas gets his groove on as a career Secret Service agent with a provocative secret.

Pete Garrison (Douglas) is a legend in the Service, a loyal workhorse who took a bullet for President Reagan and kept on ticking. His life is a well-ordered chaos of Presidential detail; motorcades, code words and the kind of compulsive structure that doesn’t allow for mistakes.

But Pete’s world revolves around the biggest mistake of all: he’s sleeping with the First Lady (Kim Basinger as Sarah Ballentine). That hush-hush state of affairs bites Pete in the behind when an envelope of surveillance photos of the lovers at a DC hotel lands on his desk.

To add insult to injury Pete is accused of a plot to assassinate the President. A suddenly flush bank account and a loitering incident at a hot terrorist drop-off point seal the deal: Pete is Public Enemy Number One and he foolishly decides to run.

Not before butting heads with top investigative agent and former best bud David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland in full Jack Bauer mode) who harbors ill feelings towards Pete because he once suspected him of having a fling with his now ex-wife.

Whew. This is the stuff that thrillers are made of and “Sentinel” trots out its bells and whistles with formulaic flair, awash in vibrant intrigue, cutting edge technology and narrative scandal. From the hushed distinction of the Oval Office to the high-class know-how that allows super-spies to do what they do best.

Douglas knows how to work the room, exuding manly star power and tetchy charm while sticking it to the man. He and Sutherland kindle fiery tension while snippets of femininity soften the blows; Basinger as a woman in love with another man, Eva Longoria as a sexy rookie whose field training is trial by fire.

The climax is as holey as Swiss cheese, peppered with inconsistencies and the kind of practical detail that inevitably gets lost in the thirst for the chase. But for most of its running time “Sentinel” gives a good name to the brand of cookie-cutter thriller that satisfies like no other.