MAN ON A LEDGE Review

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for cheap action thrillers like this. "Man On A Ledge" reminds me of one of those 90's action flicks we see constantly re-played on late night TV now, those ones that seem to never get old and you can't help but stop and watch when you come across them. There is nothing spectacular about the film and the plot in general is so highly unlikely we forget about halfway through the movie that there is even such a thing as logic. The film is nothing short of entertaining despite this fact and if you are a movie-goer willing to let details slide and simply allow the experience to be one of escapism then "Man On A Ledge" is a solid piece of fun you will no doubt enjoy. If you are a stickler for realism though, you might feel otherwise and have your patients tested within the first few scenes. I am a movie-goer of the former category and so with a stout cast that includes Sam "Avatar" Worthington in the lead and stronger supporting players like Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Anthony Mackie, and Ed Harris bringing this tale to a head is almost as easy to watch as it is for Jamie Bell and his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) to steal back the diamond that put Worthington's Nick Cassidy in the slammer.

Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) attempts to negotiate Nick
Cassidy (Sam Worthington) off of the ledge.
Though the title is pretty self explanatory the writers have enough wit about them to pile on enough New York cop procedural cliches to fill out the remainder of the running time. Inherently, this is really a part of the problem. Not only does "Man On A Ledge" have a good idea, a nice premise with a promising starting point, but is there enough here to flesh out an entire feature? Ehh, probably not, but they stretch it the best they can. Early on after first being introduced to Nick Cassidy we have a flashback that sets up the story; Cassidy was a cop accused of stealing a diamond from business tycoon David Englander (Harris). For this accusation he has been sent to jail with no hopes of getting out anytime soon. In the flashback we get an action-packed escape scene as well as establishing Nick's support team in his brother Joey (Bell) and girlfriend Angie. The pacing is quite smooth and allows for a real ease in the audience member to slip into this convoluted story that is as entertaining as it is pointless. The film tries to stay both two steps ahead of us while allowing us to know a little more than the cops do. It is a difficult line to walk but luckily we have Elizabeth Banks in the role of Lydia Mercer, a negotiator now famous for not being able to prevent a rookie cop's suicide the previous month. Banks deserves some serious credit for holding this all together while allowing the audience member a perspective that makes this more credible than it ever should have been.

David Englander (Ed Harris) has a lot to lose if the man on
the ledge's stunt goes off as planned. 
While the film moves along at a fine pace and there are more than enough moments to keep us on the edge, the film feels slightly understated as it doesn't exactly have to try that hard. While we watch Worthington stand on the ledge, drawing the attention to himself while his brother and Angie break into the Englander building to find the diamond Nick was accused of stealing we know things won't be so easy, we can feel the twists coming yet despite this and even sillier acting (just wait until you see Kyra Sedgwick as a news reporter) the movie consistently proves to be fun and engaging. I have still not bought into the whole idea of Sam Worthington as a movie star, but I was surprised by his charisma here where he really doesn't have much to work with. The script literally has the guy trapped in this one spot for the majority of the film, his range is restricted and his tools limited, the actor has to depend on his conviction to relate his commitment to being in his current position. Worthington and Banks form a nice back-and-forth as two of the only honest cops left in the city while Ed Burns stands around in the background for no apparent reason. Worthington is more than willing when it comes to the action set pieces at the beginning and end of the film, but if "Man On A Ledge" exists for any reason at all it could be as a testament to the fact Worthington is capable of more than just running and fighting.

Joey (Jamie Bell) and Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) relax with a
drink after a long days work.
No, "Man On A Ledge" is nothing to write home about and it surely won't be recognized any further than getting those replays on late night TV in a few years but that is what this type of movie is made for and the makers realize that. There is an element to the movie that is almost tongue and cheek, we know not to take it all too seriously and those behind the scenes know how outlandish it would be for an audience to accept this without having any issues with the implausibilities. What makes us willing to forgive these things is that simple fact that we are indeed entertained by what is going on on screen. There are enough credible actors giving good performances and strong and inventive direction by first time feature director Asger Leth. There is a better, more serious movie to be made out of this subject matter that could likely take this original and intriguing concept in a more inventive direction. This had promise when taking in the trailer, but ends up being more stock characters and cop cliches than we can avoid and so we are left to wonder what might have been as we leave the theater. The one up side is we don't question this as we watch the film as this current form at least lives up to the expectations of entertainment. Don't expect this film to take thrillers to new heights, but if you're in the mood for a light, fun film with a few good thrills you could do much worse than "Man On A Ledge".