Movie Review: Man on a Ledge
Rating: PG-13 (for strong language and violence)
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: January 27, 2012
Directed by: Asger Leth
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Stars: 3 out of 5
"Man on a Ledge" is a suspenseful film about an ex-cop turned convicted felon who escapes prison just to climb out onto the narrow ledge of a Manhattan hotel rooftop and threaten to jump. His purpose is to convince law enforcement of his innocence. Soon after, New York's finest arrive with a SWAT team and later a female police psychologist is enlisted to talk him down from the ledge. It turns out the man on the ledge is accused of stealing a diamond, but while police try to sort things out, what might be the biggest diamond heist in New York's history is set in motion.
The man on the ledge is Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington, "Clash of the Titans," "Avatar"), who gives a solid performance as a desperate man determined to prove his innocence. Worthington's Australian accent sometimes betrays that he is not as American as his character is supposed to be. This doesn't take away from his performance, but now and then the accent surfaces and may distract the viewer momentarily.
The film begins with Nick checking into New York's Roosevelt Hotel, where he eats and then wipes down everything he's touched before writing a note and climbing out the window to a narrow ledge.
The viewer is then taken back to a month before Nick feels it necessary to step out onto the ledge, where the viewer learns that Nick escaped prison when officials allowed him to attend his father's funeral. This is where it is also revealed that Nick was a cop.
Flashbacks are often frustrating for viewers, but director Asger Leth ("Ghosts of Cité Soleil") utilizes the time change in a successful way. Had the film started with Nick's escape and followed a linear timeline, the viewer's interest would have waned rapidly. Instead, the action begins at the motel where Nick's strange actions pose a million questions, making viewers wonder why he's there, what could make him so desperate, and why he'd wipe everything down before going out and showing himself anyway. The setup with the flashback makes an excellent hook.
After filling the viewer in on Nick's history and answering a handful of pertinent questions, the story flips back to the present time. An enormous crowd is gathering below Nick's perch, and police make several attempts to speak to him and try to get him down from the ledge. But there is only one person Nick is willing talk to, and that is Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks, "The Hunger Games"). He stands his ground until police find Mercer, who is a professional negotiator who lost the respect of her law enforcement peers when she failed to talk another cop down from a bridge. Elizabeth Banks does an admirable job playing the pretty negotiator, and viewers begin to hope she and Nick might have a connection.
As Lydia and Nick talk, viewers learn why Nick is incarcerated. He tells Lydia that he is an innocent man, in prison for a crime he didn't commit. The theft he was convicted of was set up by the owner of the allegedly stolen diamond, powerful businessman David Englander (Ed Harris, "Appaloosa," "Virginia"). Ed Harris gives a decidedly convincing performance as a selfish, shallow and annoying rich man bent on destroying innocent lives. Lydia is doubtful of Nick's story at first, but the more he talks to her, the more she believes he might be telling the truth.
While Nick is talking to Lydia, his brother Joey (Jamie Bell, "King Kong," "Jane Eyre") is across the street with his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez, "Entourage"), where the two are attempting to break into Englander's safe to steal the diamond and prove that it was never stolen, which would in turn prove Nick's innocence.
The chemistry between Bell and Rodriguez is palpable, which makes their scenes electric. It also adds some fun to an otherwise dark story. Their comedic bickering as they fight Englander's elaborate security system might be the highlight of the movie. The breathless scene where Joey and Angie run out of time and have to clean up the evidence of their presence and hide keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.
While the trailer gives the impression of a constant, nail-biting thrill ride, "Man on a Ledge" is not quite that intense. It is suspenseful and gritty but not as fast-paced as the marketing leads viewers to believe. However, the interesting premise and stellar performances by the film's cast make it a movie that is worth the cost of admission.