Man on a Ledge
Directed by: Asger Leth
Cast: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie
Running Time: 1 hr 42 mins
Release Date: January 27, 2012
PLOT: An ex-cop (Worthington) threatens to jump from a Manhattan hotel, while trying to get revenge on the man who sent him to prison.
WHO’S IT FOR? Does the slightest fear of heights make you giggle with nervous excitement? If not, you’re looking at an average thriller with a good gimmick.
EXPECTATIONS: I knew very little about this flick. Like the title said, I figured there would be a man … and he would be on a ledge. It was an early screening and the first 2012 film I saw.
Sam Worthington as Nick Cassidy: My favorite Worthington performance is as David in The Debt. Let me clarify that a little, it’s really the only one I have appreciated. Unfortunately he’s felt bland in Clash of the Titans, Avatar and Terminator Salvation. What’s crazy is, when I interviewed him for The Debt he was insanely engaging, it just wasn’t translating to the screen. With his performance as Nick, it’s more of the same. The character is bland. Nick wants revenge and takes extreme measures to get it. That’s really all there is here. Well, he’s also sporting a near mullet.
Elizabeth Banks as Lydia Mercer: Everything is better with Banks (copyright Jeff Bayer pending). I love that she’s not willing to be saddled with the “comedic actress” label. Banks’ first scene is straight out of the Bruce Willis/Die Hard handbook. She’s a hungover cop, dragged in to work. As the hostage negotiator, she’s asked to trust Nick, who is clearly lying to her. It’s a weird combination. You want to like and root for Lydia a little more than you do anyone else in this film. This is especially true when we learn about Lydia’s past as a negotiator.
Ed Harris as David Englander: Harris is in full “crazy rich man” mode, which is fun to watch. Need proof? He throws a really nice watch against the wall. Yup, he’s that crazy. He’s just not given enough screen time to truly make an impact.
Rest of Cast: Edward Burns shows up as another cop on the negotiation team. The first half of the film he’s asked to be insanely condescending and smug to Lydia. The second half, just the opposite. Man, Burns does smug really well, which I guess is a compliment. Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez are comic relief, which is surprising to see in this film. The young lovers bicker while trying to help Nick and his ultimate plan. Anthony Mackie and Titus Welliver are good to see, but have been given much better characters to work with in other films.
TALKING: It’s cop talk 101. But it’s not the authentic type. The dialogue in Man on a Ledge is more like TV ’80s cop show. The sampling of the lines include, “What if he didn’t do it?” to “You gotta be kidding me.” And when true suspense is on the line it’s very basic stuff like, “If you cut the wrong one …” Yes, they’re talking about a wire. The dialogue really does zap a feeling of true suspense from the film.
SIGHTS: There are moments that completely work, but when you are dealing with a man on a ledge, don’t you want to be holding on to your seat (so you don’t fall) for the entire film? That doesn’t happen here. The best surprise action moment doesn’t even involve the ledge, instead it’s a car cash.
SOUNDS: Heart-pounding. Occasionally. Just like the SIGHTS, there are only moments here. The bass used in Inception could have been borrowed here with great effect.
BEST SCENE: Ed Harris shows up and struts his stuff. I didn’t even know he was in the film, so that was a nice surprise, and the fact that he’s acting fairly insane when receiving a gift from a politician … well, I was interested with what I was seeing.
ENDING: If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the entire film doesn’t take place on the ledge. That’s true with the ending as well. It actually reminded me of Rocky V, yes, I’m serious. The very end (before the credits) actually made me feel like there was a working-man’s Ocean’s Eleven vibe that could/should have been achieved throughout the film.
QUESTIONS: Don’t you want to see the list of crimes that were committed in the name of “clearing your name”?
REWATCHABILITY: I don’t see the need. It’s one of those “oh yeah” films, as in, “Remember Man on a Ledge? And then I would respond, “Oh yeah, that was OK.”
It’s an action thriller about dirty cops, dirty rich men, and working-class men fighting back. It’s a heist film with a basic distraction to keep the audience’s eyes away from the prize. But before those ideas, I need to make sure you understand something really important … there is a man … on … a … ledge! That concept, or gimmick, dominates this film (and it’s title) to the point where Worthington on the ledge needs to be filled with despair, nervousness, excitement and fun. It rarely gets there.
Phone Booth has a controlled nervous feeling and Colin Farrell is stuck in a New York phone booth (kids can go to Google to find out what a phone booth is), not a New York ledge.
The problem lies in the fact that Worthington is in control and on a ledge. His character Nick has planned all of this out, and if you plan to be on a ledge, then there’s not too much to get nervous about. Banks and Harris do their best to separate from the ordinary script, but it’s really the ledge and the lead character that prevent this film from shining.
In an interview, I heard Worthington is actually afraid of heights. Having him choose this role is more interesting than anything the movie achieves. You don’t want “It’s fine” to be your first thoughts about Man on a Ledge.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10