Man on a Ledge
Well. Rarely has a movie been so accurately named. Man on a Ledge is very much about a man on a ledge. And not much more. And yet not in one of those interesting tricksy ways that can often be clever, that force everyone involved to be brilliant and original and to bring their A games. Mighta been cool if this movie stuck with the man on the ledge and never left him like how Phone Booth is about Colin Farrell trapped in a phone booth and never leaves him and that works, marvelously. Or how Buried puts us with Ryan Reynolds being held for ransom in a dark coffin six feet under and never leaves him, and it is absolutely horrifyingly claustrophobic and gives you sweats just thinking about it later.
Of course then there is the problem of the man on the ledge being Sam Worthington. If I was hoping that Worthington (Clash of the Titans, Avatar) would surprise me the way that Ryan Reynolds, the man in the coffin, did, I would have been disappointed. For the Great Mystery of Sam Worthington remains unsolved even after Man on a Ledge: How is it that this guy is a movie star? He’s got no screen presence, no charisma — hell, he’s only just blandly handsome. He’s probably a nice enough guy to have a beer with, but that’s not enough. Certainly not for a movie like this. Because we’re meant to sympathize with his Nick Cassidy, who is an escaped felon holding himself hostage by standing out on a ledge twenty-something stories up the Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan, and frankly, I can’t even be bothered to be like the mobs gathered on the sidewalks below who are yelling for him to jump.
Ha ha. New Yorkers: what bastards.
Except that’s not really true, in fact.
So: I just don’t care about Nick, or why he’s on a ledge. I don’t care if he jumps or not. I can’t even be tempted to say that I might care more if Worthington were a more captivating actor, because most of the rest of what’s going on is so absurdly preposterous that by the time you find out the reasons for all the ridiculousness, it’s even worse than before you knew. I don’t want to spoil; I’ll just say that TV screenwriter Pablo F. Fenjves, making his feature debut, would have been better off not trying to be so crafty, because his idea of crafty defies all logic. He needs X to have happened for Y to be clever, but X could never ever happen in the relatively realistic universe this is supposed to be occurring in. X would have shut down the entire plot before it could get going.
The rest of the story, which we keep cutting away to, involves Nick’s brother, Joey (Jamie Bell: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, The Eagle), and his girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), busting into a building across the street owned by Megarich Villain David Englander (Ed Harris: National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Gone Baby Gone), who is responsible for the totally innocent Nick being in prison in the first place, in an attempt to prove Nick’s innocence. This requires, in one ludicrous moment, Angie to strip down to her undies in the middle of the heist. It’s as if director Asger Leth — whom I don’t know much about, but he sounds like a city in Mordor — knew he was losing his audience at this point and felt he should distract us, much as Nick’s being on the ledge is meant to distract New York City from the break-in itself.
Mostly what’s distracting is how much missed opportunity we are witness to here. Elizabeth Banks (The Next Three Days, The Uninvited) is fairly awesome as a general thing, but she’s wasted as Lydia Mercer, the NYPD hostage negotiator Nick specifically requests — she gets to be the hardbitten, wounded cop we see male cop characters getting to be on a regular basis, which is a good thing, but it goes nowhere. Someone should give Mercer her own movie soon. And then there’s Kyra Sedgwick (Gamer, Secondhand Lions) as the TV reporter on the street who is supposed to be a major pain in the ass to the cops, yet she is allowed to add nothing to the narrative — she’s barely even some added color.
Ack! What this could have been. I see a Meet John Doe for an ugly corrupt modern world. That was the dark 1941 Frank Capra movie in which Gary Cooper threatens to publicly kill himself as a protest against political and corporate corruption, and it is simply begging for a 21st-century update. The seeds of that are here, but they’re totally ignored. Instead, Man on a Ledge is as cheap, as cynical, and as dishonest as the things it believes it is railing against.