Director: Asger Leth
Writer: Pablo F. Fenjves
Stars: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris
Release date: January 27th, 2012
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Running time: 102 minutes
Best part: The courageous cast.
Worst part: The gigantic logic leaps.
When you have a film with a title as blunt and unsubtle as Man on a Ledge, you are likely to get exactly what you ask for. The film is a very mindless and tedious action thriller with many talented actors forced through bland material and one ridiculous action set piece after another.
This tale of living life on the edge starts with Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), an ex-cop who escapes from authorities after two years in prison. He books a room at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, eats a final meal, cleans up and steps out onto the ledge. With the citizens of New York captivated by his daring feat, his ploy for attention is based on his call for freedom. After being sent to prison by slimy real estate tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris) for a crime he didn’t commit, he must call attention while at the same time, using his younger brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his Girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) to break into Englander’s safe to find the answers. Cassidy also calls upon hostage negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) and his former police partner Mike Ackerman (Anthony Mackie) to help prove his innocence.
For a film involving a man threatening to jump from a high rise building to prove his innocence, Man on a Ledge surprisingly lacks either depth or any sense of tension. The direction by documentary director Asger Leth is heavily played down, choosing to reside with chases and heists over chemistry between the characters involved in these life or death situations. Despite what should be a convincing hostage negotiation thriller in the vein of the original The Taking of Pelham 123, the film is way over the top in many aspects. With the film switching mostly between the ledge and the heist, this Ocean’s 11 style heist only serves to be filled with one conflict after another for our characters to get past. Not only does the heist feel completely out of place for this type of film, but the constant, useless and unfunny bickering between the couple completing the heist becomes tiresome within 5 minutes. Despite the film’s consistent pacing, it moves from one ridiculous and predictable plot twist to the next. With the many attempts of story twists failing to create an emotional response, the final scene of the film will leave you sighing audibly.Of the many plot threads intertwining through Worthington’s character, the only one that is interesting involves his dice with instant death.
Man on a Ledge does manage to stay faithful to the original premise of the man on the ledge. Both the man on the ledge and the hostage negotiator are compelling and sensitive main characters. Throughout the film, the flashbacks and exposition based on them describe just enough to make them interesting. This is also helped by both Worthington and Banks once again delivering dynamic performances with the little they are given. Bell tries and fails to deliver an American accent, While a frail looking Harris and sexy, lingerie clad Rodriguez deliver Over the top and embarrassing performances as Englander and Angie Respectively. Harris’ excessive hand gestures and bad Brooklyn accent make you question his legendary Hollywood status. Despite a strong positive of the film being Rodriguez dressed in skimpy pink underwear, having her talk in Spanish in an over the top way is one of her many failed attempts at comedy. The film is filled with bad dialogue and a poor sense of humour, leaving it in the dust as a forgettable action flick trying desperately to be a hard edged but enjoyable cop drama. The film also suffers from a heavy handed ‘Occupy Wall Street’ message. This is only used to create an exaggerated connection between Worthington’s character and the crowd looking up at him, based on either a comical or emotional response to his situation.
“Today is the day when everything changes. One way or another.” (Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), Man on a Ledge).
The film manages to make several innovative references to other film’s of its type. Both Dog Day Afternoon and Safety Last! are paid tribute as we see the varying influences of a first time feature director. Despite the poor direction and screenwriting, the cinematography is very competent and is put to good use. If you suffer from either claustrophobia or a fear of heights, you may want to avoid this film as the many brisk shots detailing his view of the city, and point of view shots looking straight at the ground, create a perfect representation of his uncomfortable position. The quick editing also helps to establish a strong emotional response to this nightmarish ordeal. Quick cuts used to create a feeling of immediate danger with each slip, trip and chase amplify his terrifying situation. Despite the large number of chases, slips, attempted jumps to attract attention and helicopters flying dangerously close to the scene, they do briefly lift the film above its dull personality. For what its worth, you do have to commend Worthington for his efforts. He conquered his fear of heights with his film by standing on the 21st floor of the real Roosevelt Hotel for most of his scenes. His determination makes him one of the most commendable young Australian actors working today.
Don;t get me wrong, I love a good blockbuster premise. Hell, we need a helluva lot more of them to maintain audience interest in big-budget fare. However, Man on a Ledge fails to follow up on its many intriguing promises.