Asger Leth‘s Man on a Ledge is what Joel Schumacher would have done if he was given the chance to make a sequel to Phone Booth. It starts out as a simple suicide case and escalates into a heist film. Man on a Ledge is your typical January thriller film that offers a little over an hour and a half of mildly entertaining cinema. Sam Worthington stretches his acting chops as the lead and Jamie Bell continues his career with another supporting role that tops the lead in terms of quality. The film is passable entertainment for 75% of the time, but the ending falls under its own weight and becomes a little too unbelievable with plot holes galore.
After getting setup for stealing a diamond former police officer Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is sentenced to hard time in prison. He’s given leave for his father’s funeral and he uses that opportunity to break free and climb onto a ledge, but this isn’t your ordinary suicide case. He wipes his fingerprints off of every item he touches in the room and he specifically requests a negotiator; Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), whose last case ended with a dead body. As Lydia attempts to talk Nick down from the ledge his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) is across the street stealing a diamond from David Englander (Ed Harris), the man who setup Nick.
Man on a Ledge progresses rather quickly, leaving the viewer in a constant state of excitement and thrills. I’ll admit that the first part of the movie had me intrigued. The film does a good job of slowly revealing the story, becoming more intricate. Each added plot point isn’t necessarily unpredictable, but it goes in a direction that you wouldn’t expect from a film with a simple premise. And for a mindless thriller Man on a Ledge works, up until the end. It really asks you to forget about logic and just accept it on its own terms, but the ending is just laughably implausible. It gets really sloppy with some of the finer details that made the first half stick and it goes from enjoyable film to a film with lots of problems.
Director Asger Leth does a good job with the pacing and structure of the film. It breezes on by as Nick stands on the windy ledge. The story doesn’t spend too much time on the back story of Nick and his family, which is fine because you learn everything you need to know as the film moves on. The structuring is great because of how Leth inserts clever twists and turns at just the right moments. When you start getting bored of watching Nick on a ledge he inserts the heist angle of the film and when that starts getting boring things begin to heat up with Nick. It constantly shifts back and forth to its various main characters.
Sam Worthington plays the lead with little charisma and a spotty accent that drifts in and out. He’s an actor known for mindless action and Man on a Ledge requires a little more than that. He doesn’t totally stink up the place, but the role could have been in better hands. For example, his brother is played by Jamie Bell, who could have done a better job with the leading role than Worthington. Bell refrains from adding any flare to the character of Joey. He doesn’t add any edge or grit to the character, instead he plays it content with very little to be said. Still, just his screen presence alone tops Worthington’s attempt at a dramatic role.
Elizabeth Banks shifts into the drama as Lydia the negotiator with a poor track record. Her character is the only one that really does something with the situation. She doesn’t transform into another person by the end of the story, but she does restore a little happiness in her grim life.
Ed Harris is also spotted in the film very briefly. He’s your typical greedy, money hungry bad guy that doesn’t take no for an answer. It’s good seeing Harris on the screen again, but he’s quickly forgotten.
It won’t be hard forgetting about Man on a Ledge in a few weeks. It’s not a particularly bad film by any means, but it’s not a really good one. It reminded me a little bit of Phone Booth, but it never captures the same intensity. It sort of works as a heist film, but the ending is too focused on revealing bad characters and plot twists to make any real sense of it all. I wouldn’t completely disregard the film as a passable January flick, but comparing its quality to other films currently out I wouldn’t suggest rushing to see this one by any means.
Man on a Ledge – 6.5/10