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Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Sentinel

This past week has seen some new faces joining the crew at the Essex Cinemas. I am always happy to see new people like Gail and Mike on board because it means I have new folks I can drive crazy with my constant yammering on and on about the movies whether they want to hear about it or not, but they both look like friendly faces and they already have the stamp of approval from Lan, Nancy, and rest of the afternoon gang so I’m sure they’ll fit in just fine. I also saw the long lost Rachel, who has been working nights and going to college by day. It’s been so long since I’ve laid eyes on her I thought she had left town to join a rock band or something. I love my Rachel. She always looks like she has just heard a dirty joke and wants to laugh but doesn’t think she ought to because it wouldn’t be polite. Go on, Rach, laugh. I would.

Speaking of dirty jokes, the biggest one in Hollywood has to be Michael Douglas. What is he? Like 163 or so? And yet he still insists that in every movie he does he has to be “the stud.” Oy! I’d rather bed a moldy loaf of rye bread than Michael Douglas, not that there would be much difference. In his latest release, The Sentinel, which should really have been titled Michael Douglas Still Can’t Keep It In His Pants, Douglas plays Pete Garrison, a secret service agent whose job is to protect the President and First Lady from harm. Garrison is a tough old bird. He took a bullet for Reagan back in 1981 when the President was shot, and he has been a devoted and well-respected agent ever since.

There’s only one person in the Secret Service who seems to have a beef with him and that is David Breckenridge (Kiefer Sutherland, tv’s 24; Taking Lives). Breckenridge has a major attitude
problem with Garrison because he believes the older man has had an affair with his wife and is responsible for ruining his marriage. Even so, he respects Garrison enough to take on his referral of a new recruit, Jill Marin, played for no apparent reason by Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives’ fame. Jill/Eva is the most luscious Secret Service agent in history, She wears skin tight business suits and perfect make-up and hair that remain flawless through every dramatic move she is forced to make as she follows Breckenridge through his paces in tracking terrorists and protecting the President.

An intelligence leak turns the lives of everyone in the Secret Service upside down when it reveals that there is a traitor in their midst. One of the fifty agents in the unit assigned to the White House protection squad is planning to assassinate the President and it falls on the shoulders of agency Director William Montrose (Martin Donovan, The Visitation; The Quiet) to root out the would-be killer. Unfortunately for Garrison, he is the only one of Montrose’s staff to fail a polygraph when asked if he had acted inappropriately within the perimeter of his role as a secret service agent within the last sixty days. It’s an odd way to word the question, but it is necessary to keep the plot and bullets flying, and so before you can say “Catherine Zeta-Jones does what with him?” Garrison is on the lam, a fugitive being hunted by his peers, and especially by the angry, vengeful Breckenridge.

Naturally the audience knows from almost the beginning of the movie that the real reason Garrison failed the polygraph is much less sinister. He is simply doing what Michael Douglas is always expected to do. He is having an affair, this time with the First Lady (a barely present Kim Basinger, Cellular; 8 Mile). Yes, in a movie with Eva Longoria and Kiefer Sutherland available to show some skin instead it is Michael Douglas who is offering to strip. Fortunately, the editing is tighter than Joan Rivers' face, and so we are spared the actual horizontal hula scenes between Garrison and First Lady Sarah Ballentine, but just exposing our imagination to such a coupling is enough to make one wonder why she would choose him of all people to take such a risk with when she is surrounded by much more pleasant, energetic, and youthful would-be suitors in her protective detail.

What follows is, of course, a waste of many, many, many bullets as Garrison fights to prove he is not the assassin and figure out who it is. Along the way he also must naturally make amends with Breckenridge because that’s what manly men do in these kinds of movies, especially once Breckenridge realizes that it was the First Lady his pal was schtupping instead of his wife. And Jill? She has to look pretty of course, and look like she can fire a gun while she’s wearing something from Victoria’s Secret underneath her suit.

The Sentinel is a rollicking old-fashioned shoot ‘em up good-ol’-boys type movie they used to
make regularly back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s just as easy to picture Steve McQueen in the Douglas role and a younger Clint Eastwood on his tail as Breckenridge or step back further and consider a 1940s version with Henry Fonda in pursuit of Fred MacMurray. In other words, the story of The Sentinel is a solid one, one that can be told again and again with strong performances. Here, it’s the actors who are the draw, and fortunately the star power here is still bright even if I personally think Douglas is getting a little long in the tooth to play the irresistible stud muffin without the assistance of his little blue pills.

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