Kiefer Sutherland may appear in The Sentinel as a Jack Bauer-ish secret service agent who likes to bark at underlings for being one minute late to work, but his presence merely heightens the impression that Clark Johnson’s follow-up to S.W.A.T. is the anti-24, a sluggish, stupid, one-dimensional thriller in which almost nothing suspenseful happens. Based on Gerald Petievich’s novel, the film takes us deep into the super-sexy world of the president’s secret service unit, an outfit populated by men expertly trained to speak into little hand microphones and use code words when discussing the commander-in-chief and by women (namely, Desperate Housewives hottie Eva Longoria) who wear cleavage-revealing tops on their first day on the job.
Despite the profession’s supposed suit-and-shades coolness, the squad’s top dog is an aging, decidedly unhip Michael Douglas, whose agent Pete Garrison—eventually framed for trying to assassinate the president—likes to sneak away from duty for a bit of beach-house boinking with Kim Basinger’s (apparently over-medicated) First Lady. But then, very little about The Sentinel makes logical sense, its plot holes big enough to accommodate Air Force One, its casting choices beyond absurd—specifically, the idea that David “Sledge Hammer!” Rasche might have nabbed a woman like Basinger—and its dialogue mainly made up of simplistic “You slept with my wife!”/“No I didn’t!”/“Yes you did. I hate you!” silliness.
Working with DP Gabriel Beristain, Johnson shoots the go-nowhere action with an underlit, smudgy color scheme that feels like a poor photocopy of Alejandro González Iñárritu and Fernando Meirelles’s signature cinematographic styles. The resulting raggedy, TV-drama visual flatness, however, is perfect for a film that boasts all the tension of a wet pancake, has about as much get-up-and-go as a slug, and features a trio of apathetic lead performances from Douglas, Sutherland, and the thoroughly underutilized Longoria. For a thriller this crushingly tedious, it’s not surprising that deducing the mysterious bad guy’s identity is as easy as spotting which actor seems most bored.