Sooner or later there will be a US political thriller that does not involve a plot to assassinate the President. This is not the time, nor the place.

Pete Garrison has been here before, played by Harrison Ford, Robert Redford or Clint Eastwood - in other words, a cinematic icon in a past sell-by-date role. The Sentinel's OAP is none other than Kirk's boy, Michael, with what looks like a Botox facial that's gone horribly wrong. Sadly, he's lost that loving feeling and appears diminished by the experience.

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The film is like a Chinese meal. You enjoy it at the time, but feel empty half an hour later. The craft of the thriller is to suspend belief for the duration. What happens afterwards in the post mortem pub discussion doesn't matter. It's the now that counts.

In this case, the now factor is well oiled and running smooth. Garrison is a secret service veteran - he took a bullet for The Gipper - still working The White House beat. His responsibility is Sarah Ballentine (Kim Basinger), the First Lady, whose welfare he takes personally, because (deep breath) they are having an affair.

An agent is shot outside his home in Washington, which brings David Beckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) and his new assistant Jill Marin (Eva Longoria) onto the scene. They are secret service investigators. Beckinridge used to be Garrison's best buddy before he suspected him of sleeping with his wife, something Garrison denies. Marin is a rookie in tight trousers, with a figure to die for.

The agent's murder opens a can of conspiracy theories, culminating in the suspicion of a plot to take out President Ballentine (David Rasche) at an international conference in Toronto. Garrison is being blackmailed, as well as searching for an informant who knows the name of a traitor in their midst, whom Beckinridge believes is Garrison.

The plot twists are derivative and when Garrison goes on the run it's The Fugitive all over again, not that it makes any difference. Once director Clark Johnson has revved up the engine, the movie races free and credulity and incredulity morph into one. It's corny and it's predictable and it's fast. There is no time to ask questions.

Douglas should take it easy in future. He has a young family to think about. Sutherland has become 24 and lost his sense of humour. Longoria doesn't do much except look sexy in all the right places. Basinger hardly moves her lips. She doesn't need to. This is minimalist acting of a sensual kind.

The bad people are ruthless and not Arabs for a change. Why they are doing what they are doing remains a mystery. In the pub you will find holes in the script big enough to drive lorries through and ask your mates, "If you were Kim, would you snog the freshly ironed face of a 62-year-old?"

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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US secret service attempts to foil a presidential assassination plot, while uncovering a traitor in its midst.
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John Gallagher **1/2

Director: Clark Johnson

Writer: George Nolfi, based on the novel by Gerald Petievich

Starring: Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Kim Basinger, Eva Longoria, Martin Donovan, David Rasche, Ritchie Coster, Blair Brown, Kristin Lehman, Raynor Scheine

Year: 2006

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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