Dir. Asger Leth, USA, 2012, 103mins
Review by Mark Byrnes
Disgraced ex-cop Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) checks in to a room on the 21st floor of an uptown Manhattan hotel and promptly climbs out on to the ledge. As a crowd and camera crews gather below expecting him to jump off, Cassidy asks for Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) to be his police negotiator. Across the street Nick’s brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and girlfriend Angie (Génesis Rodríguez) attempt to break into the vault of industrial magnate David Englander (Ed Harris), whom Nick believes is responsible for setting him up in the theft of a valuable diamond. Once Mercer discovers that Nick is in fact an escaped convict, he tries to convince her to help him with his grand diversion and prove his innocence, before those responsible for framing him silence him permanently.
While Sam Worthington spends most of his time peering over an abyss, one gets the feeling that Man On a Ledge is very much looking over its shoulder, referencing far superior New York set thrillers – Spike Lee’s Inside Man, Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth and Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon all come to mind. With a background in documentary filmmaking, director Asger Leth (Ghosts of Cité Soleil) surprisingly fails to ground his tale in anything approaching a plausible reality, a task not helped by the perfunctory script of Pablo F. Fenjves, famous for ghost-writing O.J. Simpson’s fanciful account of his own infamous murder case. In the assured hands of either Lee or Schumacher many of the film’s cracks would probably have been papered over. Instead, with a tension free plot device in Cassidy’s supposed suicide attempt, the diamond vault robbery distinctly underwhelms, coming across more mission implausible than impossible. As it nears its climax, the sight ofWorthington being chased around the narrow ledge of the building seems less ridiculous than some of the plot’s contrivances.
Occupying the type of star driven role that his fellow countryman Russell Crowe may have been offered ten years ago, Worthington on this evidence does not do enough to inherit Crowe’s mantle, lacking some of his stock in trade earnestness and charisma (something which the forthcoming Wrath of the Titans in unlikely to overturn). Banks is reasonably good value as the troubled hostage negotiator with a chance at redemption (as most of the characters in the film seem to be seeking), but the notable lack of chemistry in her exchanges withWorthington bumps the film down a few levels. In a nice nod to the post-Lehman age of fiscal dishonesty, Ed Harris as the duplicitous diamond dealer turned property developer renders his cartoonish bad guy with more charisma than we have a right to expect. In an underwhelming role, Jamie Bell at least ensures his American accent does not slip, unlikeWorthington’s.
However while Man on a Ledge does not quite reach the giddy heights it aims for, so long as you leave your brain and vertigo at the entrance you will be rewarded with hokum of the highest order.