Sunday, June 03, 2007

From the Makers of 24--2: The Sentinel

Some spoilers ahead

I am a huge fan of "24."

I say this in order to set the tone for the rest of this review.

Most people view the show as more crazy conservative programming from FOX. And that's all well and good, but it's much more than that.

"24" is a statement of machismo and glory that surpasses all other television programs, including other staples of mine such as "Battlestar Galactica", "Prison Break" and "Firefly." In each hour of the action-packed day, Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland of all that is badass) draws in attention like a magnet.

It's honestly amazing what the writers pack into each day (though, I will concede that this last day did suck just a wee bit).

So when a movie comes out starring Mister Sutherland as a big time Secret Service man, with Michael Douglas in for the ride no less, I couldn't say no.

Actually, I said "no" for a long time, mainly because the ratings were as poor as can be.

But now, given the new freedom summertime has alotted me, I dove into the movie with a mind set toward darkness and bags of awful dialogue.

And I wasn't entirely disappointed.

"The Sentinel" is a below-average political thriller wrapped in a below-average action movie.

It's very hard to make a political thriller nowadays without pissing off half the country. "24" consistently touches on hot-button issues such as Islamic fanatics, torture of terrorists and the ability of a sitting president to sleep with or without his wife.

But "The Sentinel" plays it safe and dredges up a bad guy from beyond the grave, namely the KGB.

For those of you who never watched a James Bond film before "Tomorrow Never Dies" (and shame on all of you), the KGB stands for Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, which is Russian for "Super Secret Spy and Torture of Dissidents Agency Which May or May Not Kill Everyone in a Vain Attempt at Covering Our Failing Country's Great Flaws and Failures."

The KGB squared off against our own CIA for the many years of the Cold War (if you still don't know what's going on, punch yourself until I stop laughing). In this film, for some reason, some guy with some connection to the KGB (no, that's never explained) wants the president dead (again, for reasons we don't fully comprehend.

Somehow he has a man inside the Secret Service, those sunglasses-wearing, square-jawed BAMFs we always see around the president. The idea of getting a man on the inside the Secret-F-ing-Service is a pretty big stretch, but you haven't even seen the movie yet, so you have no idea how far it goes.

The star of the film is Michael Douglas, who plays the role of Agent Pete Garrison, the head of the First Lady's detail, and her man on the side. His long career was punctuated by a few rounds taken in the service of President Reagen. Now he spends his time joking around with old friends and diddling the most powerful woman in office.

Now the Secret Service is not only a security team for the president, they also have an incredible team of investigators working out of the Treasury. In this case, the head investigator is a hotshot agent named David Breckenridge, but you can call him Jack.

That's right. Jack Bauer is the co-star of this movie.

Don't let the name they've given him fool you. Jackie's been known to take on aliases in order to penetrate the highest levels of governments. In this case, he's on the inside of our own Secret Service, looking for dirt and coming up with both hands full.

His mannerisms, his looks, even the way he draws his weapon and fires at the baddies is all signature Jack B. They stop having his character addressed by any name just you don't have to remind yourself that this is in fact Jack Bauer and not some stupid David person.

So here's how it all goes down.

An informant drops some information on Pete's lap that intimates an imminent assassination attempt on the president. Pete begins the investigation, but all the evidence soon points to him.

What happens next is a high-octane chase remenicient of "The Fugitive" only with less acting. Pete is one of the best trained agents the Secret Service has ever had, and now he has to use all of his skills against his own in order to survive.

Jack is always one step behind, sometimes even arriving at the same building only seconds after Pete leaves. They have some sordid personal history that serves to instigate a few shoving matches and is politely forgotten when the audience realizes they never gave a crap.

The action, for the most part, is pretty dry. The "shoot-outs" last slightly longer than they would in reality, but too short to really grab the adrenal glands and squeeze. The director didn't know whether to go for realism or punchy action, and the mix doesn't really work.

In fact, a lot doesn't work. There are moments when the writers didn't know how to segue to another scene, so they opted not to. Scenes just follow each other the viewer is meant to figure it out.

News flash, writers. THIS DOESN'T WORK!

People don't go to movies in order to put together intricate puzzles. And even if we did, we don't want a three thousand piece puzzle with half the picture missing.

One of the highlights of this movie (aside from the startling fact that Kim Basinger is still a striking and gorgeous woman of 80) is Eva Longoria. Honestly, I don't know why she's in this movie.

True, she's absolutely the most beautiful woman in a Secret Service movie this summer, but her character doesn't add anything to the plot. She acts mainyl as a bridge character, constantly forgoing her own investigation to chat with fugitive Pete about how he needs to turn himself in.

She also tries to get to know Jack B., but he's too jaded from years of pain to be interested.

I don't know what to tell you guys, this film lacked a lot. I liked the fact that it paid a little homage to the shadows behind all great men, the Secret Service. There are few movies that even acknowledge these heroic people, and it's high time someone took notice.

Granted, they do it poorly, but I give an A for effort.

This movie really needed a better action director and a few more writers, but it does a passable job of retelling a story Tom Clancy probably wrote in his sleep, then forgot because it was so below his usual standards of excellence.

I give this film four stars for Eva Longoria, Kim Basinger, Michael Douglas and Jack B--I mean Keifer Sutherland.

Watch carefully.

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