© 2012 Ray Wong
Definitely a high-concept movie, Man on a Ledge is a fast-paced thriller that does a lot to thrill, not not enough to engage us in an emotional way.
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) checks in the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan under a fake name J. Walker. Soon, he leaves a suicide note and steps out onto the ledge. His attempted suicide captures the attention of the city, the news media, and the police. Officer Jack Docherty (Edward Burns) tries to talk to Nick, who specifically asks for hostage negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks).
It turns out Nick Cassidy is an escape convict and an ex-cop. He was sentenced for 25 years for grand theft. During his father's funeral, Nick attacked his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and managed to escape, and soon he disappeared, until this day when he shows up on the ledge of the hotel.
But as the events unfold, we realize the suicide attempt is a ploy. Meanwhile in another building owned by real estate tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris), Joey (Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) is trying to break in. It turns out it's all part of a heist. But why? Why would Nick draw so much attention to himself when they want to rob Englander?
Sam Worthington (Avatar) has made himself a star in a slew of action movies. He's always the Average Joe's action hero, and here he plays a cop with enough grit to pull it off. Worthington is a likable actor with solid skills, but it's still too early to convince us that he has a range. So far, he's played more or less the same character, whether having blue skin, wearing a toga or an orange jumpsuit. Still, he does what he does well, and he anchors the entire film.
Elizabeth Banks (The Next Three Days) shows a bit more range here, playing an officer who has a hard time accepting her failure or trying to fit in. She and Worthington have some good scenes, and she does her part well. Ed Harris (Salvation Boulevard) is an actor's actor, but he overplays his caricature character.
Jamie Bell (Jane Eyre) plays Nick's loyal brother with enough naiveté and gumption to make us want to root for him. But I am not convinced that he and Worthington are brothers. Genesis Rodriguez (Entourage) is a firecracker making her debut feature. She is fun to watch (and easy on the eye, too). Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau) if fine as Nick's ex-partner in the force.
Written by TV scribe Pablio F. Fenjives (Trophy Wife), the screenplay has all the signatures of a high octane action thriller. It starts off well enough, pulling us in with a mystery and a man who is about to do something crazy. As the plot unfolds, however, more and more threads get tangled in the web, and it feels convoluted and overplayed. Some of the plot twists are predictable while others are contrived. The heist scenes are overlong, and they actually become boring. There are plenty of plot holes, but I've come to expect that in most action movies.
Except for some of the major characters, most characters are flat, one-dimensional, and cliched. They are like cartoons, and you get exactly what you expect. There's not much surprise there -- who the good and bad guys are. I do give Fenjives credit for keeping the plot close to the vest, only to reveal more through dialogue and action. Although he could have cut the flashback in the beginning and sprinkle the explanation in dialogue instead.
Director Asger Leth's (Ghost of Cite Soleil) is adequate for a thriller. He keeps the action going, and it's by and large entertaining. The production is fine for such a movie. He could have cut or trimmed some scenes, however. The heist scenes are overly long and contrived. The pacing is fine for the action sequences, but could have slowed down a bit to get us involved with the characters.
Man on a Ledge does what it says it does: entertain and thrill. If you don't expect deep characters and bullet-proof logic, you could have a good time. But if you're a man on a budget, wait for the DVD instead.
Stars: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Genesis Rodriguez, Anthony Mackie, Edward Burns
Director: Asger Leth
Writers: Pablo F. Fenjives
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language
Running Time: 102 minutes
Script - 6
Performance - 7
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 7
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 8
Production - 8
Total - 7.4 out of 10.0