| If you knew nothing about the movie and just happened to glance at the title, you might think that Man on a Ledge is some kind of metaphor. But, no, it is indeed quite literal, referring to the fact that, for nearly the entirety of the film, there is a man standing on a ledge. The man is Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), a former police officer who was jailed for stealing a $40 million diamond from David Englander (Ed Harris), a corrupt real estate tycoon (is there any other kind in the movies, especially post-economic crash?). Nick swears he is innocent, and to prove it he breaks out of jail, makes his way to New York City, and steps out onto the ledge that wraps around the 21st floor of the Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan. How, exactly, this is supposed to prove his innocence is part of the movie’s hook, as his year-in-the-making plan slowly evolves.|
Of course, he is not the only one involved. Working with him are his younger brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and Joey’s girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), who are busy breaking into the building across the street while Nick draws attention with his ledge antics. Also working with him, although unbeknownst to her, is Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), a police negotiator with whom he specifically asks to talk. Lydia is not in a particularly good place in life, the reasons for which are revealed later in the film, but Nick clearly has a purpose in recruiting her to talk to him through the window, even though he has no intention of coming inside until his plan is completed. Also thrown into the mix is Mike Ackerman (Anthony Mackie), Nick’s former partner and apparently the only person who visits him in jail; Suzie Morales (Kyra Sedgwick), the requisite hard-nose New York journalist who helps turn Nick’s ledge stunt into a media circus; and Jack Dougherty (Ed Burns), a cynical police detective who begrudgingly develops respect for Lydia even though the rest of the police force seems to hate her.
Director Asger Leth, who is making the leap to feature filmmaking from the world of documentaries, gives the film a much needed sense of physical reality with vertiginous shots from outside the Roosevelt that make it abundantly clear that Nick is standing on about a foot of concrete—all that is between him and the pavement 250 feet below (perhaps Worthington was looking for a break from all the green screen work he’s done in films like Avatar and Clash of the Titans). Leth is not exactly a subtle director, and it shows in the way he handles some his actors. Worthington is fine as the determined, wrongfully accused man, even though his Aussie accent sometimes slips through, while Bell and Rodriguez have a nice, funny chemistry in their scenes even if their interpersonal antics tend to make their elaborate break-in scheme feel even more implausible than it actually is. Harris, on the other hand, overplays his hand as the villainous Englander in a way that is far beneath him; ever line of dialogue comes out dripping with cartoonish venom.
Screenwriter Pablo F. Fenjves, who is also making the leap to feature films, albeit from the world of made-for-TV movies with salacious titles like When the Dark Man Calls (1995), The Devil’s Child (1997), and Trophy Wife (2006), is just as unsubtle, doling out heavy gobs of narrative information efficiently but inelegantly (there are always at least four or five subplots plugging away at the same time). His television work shows in his dialogue, which is punchy and often cheesy, doing the necessary work with a minimum of fuss and no sense of artistry. Of course, Man on a Ledge is a straight-up genre film with no ambition beyond keeping the audience minimally entertained with its workmanlike execution of a literally high-concept idea, and in that regard it works. No metaphors here.
Copyright ©2011 James Kendrick
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Overall Rating: (2.5)
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