The Sentinel

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There are two conspiracies going on in “The Sentinel,” and even combined they’re not as interesting as one episode of “24.”

I bring up “24” because Kiefer Sutherland plays essentially the same character in both places, a no-nonsense velvet-voiced federal agent who pursues justice with guns a-blazin’. Also like “24,” “The Sentinel” has an icy, flaxen-haired First Lady who’s on poor terms with her husband but good terms with a Secret Service agent, and at least one mole in the organization.

But let’s hope the actual “24” movie turns out better than this wannabe, which was directed by TV veteran Clark Johnson (“Homicide: Life on the Street,” “The Shield,” “NYPD Blue”) with an energy that proves futile in the face of the lackluster screenplay (by George Nolfi, from a novel by Gerald Petievich).

Here we have Sutherland as David Breckinridge, a gruff Secret Service detective who tells his rookie partner (Eva Longoria), “Résumés don’t mean a lot to me. And they don’t mean a thing out on the street!” (He doesn’t say so explicitly, but I assume he’s quoting from the Movie Cop Cliché Handbook.) The team’s suspicions are raised when a fellow agent is murdered, apparently because he had uncovered a plot to kill the president — a plot hatched from within the ranks of the Secret Service.

Meanwhile, Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) — Breckinridge’s former partner and friend — is on First Lady detail, and he’s taking his job very much to heart, going so far as to sleep with her when the president’s away. She is played by Kim Basinger, though, so you can see where he’s coming from.

Soon Garrison is receiving blackmail photos of him and the First Lady, and he wonders: Is this connected to the conspiracy to kill the prez?

Well, duh. And a thousand times, duh. I guessed who the bad guy was pretty early, due to an unusual and undue emphasis the film placed on a particular detail. And once the villain is officially revealed, it goes further downhill: His motives are weak, and the people pulling his strings are the dullest murderers I’ve seen in a long time. It leads to a climax that’s both confusing AND boring, which is really the only noteworthy feat the film accomplishes.

C (1 hr., 48 min.; PG-13, scattered profanity, some violence.)

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