Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington, "Avatar," "The Debt") is an ex-cop in prison for stealing the $43 million dollar Miracle diamond when he's let out to attend his father's funeral. At the cemetery, a scuffle with his younger brother Joey (Jamie Bell, "Billy Elliot," "Jane Eyre") leads to a successful escape. The next day, disgraced NYPD negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks, "Seabiscuit," "Our Idiot Brother") gets a call that she's been specifically requested on one of the top floors of Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel by the "Man on a Ledge."
What on earth led Danish documentarian Asger Leth ("The Five Obstructions," "Ghosts of Cité Soleil") to choose this cheesy 'everything-but-the-kitchen-sink' action thriller from television movie writer Pablo F. Fenjves ('The Devil's Child,' 'Trophy Wife') for his feature debut is more of a mystery than anything which happens on screen. For what it is, he's at least staged some decent popcorn set pieces, including putting his acrophobic leading man out on a real 14" ledge high above midtown Manhattan, but the film takes the meaning of 'far-fetched' further than most will be willing to go.
Fenjves at least tries to inject a bit of the current zeitgeist with a blue collar central character whose life has been thoughtlessly sacrificed by a member of the 1% with no repercussion. Yet Cassidy seems to have big money backing his elaborate scheme to prove his innocence. At first, neither we nor Mercer nor the skeptical colleague, Jack Dougherty (Edward Burns, "The Brothers McMullen"), who called her in believe the man just might really be jumping. We witnessed Nick's confession to a prison psychiatrist (J. Smith-Cameron, "Margaret") that he just might be suicidal, then see a last meal of champagne and lobster served by solicitous hotel valet (Bill Sadler, "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey's" Grim Reaper) and read the note he's left in the room. Well before the cops catch on, though, the audience is allowed to see that Nick is in radio contact with his brother and brother's girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), a Jersey girl all cat suit and cleavage for her first high tech robbery. We also discover that they're in the building across the street which houses the offices of powerful NYC real estate developer David Englander (Ed Harris, "Gone Baby Gone," "The Way Back"), poised for a big press conference unveiling his dream project. He also happens to be the guy whose diamond was stolen. Then there's Nick's old partner, Mike (Anthony Mackie, "The Hurt Locker," "The Adjustment Bureau"), who's very invested on talking him off the ledge and location unit supervisor Dante Marcus (Titus Welliver, "Gone Baby Gone") who radiates the wrong kind of vibe for a good guy.
"Man on a Ledge" seems cobbled together from so many other movies, beginning with Banks's own "The Next Three Days" in which we see family commit crimes in order to free a suspect whose guilt or innocence we're not entirely sure of. That film was a marvel of restraint compared to this one though, which mixes in "Mission Impossible" heist moves, internal corruption and betrayal a la 1998's "The Negotiator" and a barricaded sidewalk circus sideshow emceed by television newscaster Suzie Morales (Kyra Sedgwick, TV's 'The Closer') right out of "Dog "Dog Day Afternoon" (Cassidy even showers them with paper bills). Even it's title is too confusingly close to last year's VOD title "The Ledge."
Worthington's worthiness of leading man roles has been debated - the guy can be a block of wood. Here he's an OK Everyman, but he's still not exactly charismatic. In fact, the casting of this film is downright weird, everyone a bit off - Harris too unshaded, Welliver playing to the 2nd balcony, Sadler obviously cast to be more than what he appears, Bell's subplot putting him in almost another film entirely (Bell and Worthington, oddly, are believable as brothers though). About the only actor who seems to be the character he's playing is Burns. Banks, like her costar, is OK, a bit too glamorous. Sedgwick is too much star for a tiny role that goes nowhere. Maybe corralling a consistent ensemble isn't Leth's strong point, but he stages action well, beginning with a car chase involving a train that doesn't take the usual step. Cinematography nicely accentuates the high stakes of Cassidy's game with some vertigo inducing angles.
"Man on a Ledge" isn't a very good movie, but it's fun enough while you're watching it even if some of the fun is generated by poking it at the film. But the movie really stumbles with a coda that hopes we'll be so tickled with new revelations that we'll forget how utterly implausible they are.
Robin did not see this film.
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