Five minutes in, Man on a Ledge loses believability and devolves into near-farcical amusingly ludicrous improbability. If that’s the sort of braindead farce you’re likely to enjoy, watch the movie. For the rest, it would be a shame to see rising star Sam Worthington reduced to taking part in such grotesquely formulaic drivel.
Man on a Ledge is just heavy handed schlock that balances unrealistic action movie howlers with painfully contrived dialogue, its only redeeming factor being the relatively short running time of 100 minutes. The film fails to generate any real excitement, though loads of ‘faux thrilling’ music is provided by Henry Jackman. All the characters here are numbingly unbelievable throughout the hackneyed script, even the scantily clad Genesis Rodriguez fails to distract from the predictable story.
Sam Worthington plays Nick Cassidy, an honest NYC cop who is wrongly accused of stealing real estate tycoon David Englander’s (Ed Harris) diamond and is sent to jail. Angered, Nick stages a prison break, makes his way to the ledge of a hotel’s high rise and threatens to jump to his death unless the cops produce Detective Mercer (Elizabeth Banks). Simultaneously, a few blocks away Nick’s brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend Angie (Rodriguez) attempt a reverse-heist to break into Englander’s vault to prove the diamond wasn’t stolen. Will Nick jump? Is there another twist? It’s all neither fun enough nor intelligent; instead it just slogs on without offering any real thrill.
The film is written by Pablo F. Fenjves, who won director of the year from the Directors Guild in 2008 for his documentary Ghosts of Cite Soleil, but Man on a Ledge seems like it was written by school kids. The trailer frustratingly gives away the biggest twist, and the final surprise, although obvious after the first half doesn’t make its appearance until the end, leaving plenty of time for the film to detour onto annoying avenues. The characters and the Mission Impossible-esque heist action are so flat that you can almost feel an invisible barrier that keeps you from any emotional involvement in them. There are also clumsily improbable twists of fate, some of which include the same cops being dispatched to every police action in the whole of New York. Things even go from implausible to completely absurd - nobody ever notices that Nick is wearing an earpiece to chat with his accomplices the whole time.
But the most shocking thing to come from this film is the fact that Sam Worthington is a stunningly flavorless leading man. Worthington has done half a dozen films since his breakout role in Avatar, none of which showcased his dramatic skills. In Man on a Ledge he struggles with his accent so much that you can’t tell if he is American or British or Australian. Complimenting Worthington’s bland role are the unintentionally comedic offerings by Edward Burns and Elizabeth Banks as the police negotiators. The talented Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Anthony Mackie (who plays Nick’s former partner) and Kyra Sedgwick (who plays a reporter) behave as if this movie was just another paycheck.
Man on a Ledge is a snoozy film – it has no great stars to show off, yet has the nerve to not even offer us any decent thrills.
(First published in Mid Day)