January 29, 2012

Man on a Ledge

A preferable alternative to seeing "Man on a Ledge"

Grade: C
Director: Asger Leth
Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Genesis Rodriguez, Ed Burns, Anthony Mackie and Ed Harris
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Although it lifts the iconography of Wall Street calamity—a man perched atop a Manhattan high-rise, threatening to leap to his death—along with a New York financier-cum-bogeyman (Ed Harris), Man on a Ledge draws from the Occupy movement only in the same way X-Men: The Last Stand was informed by the struggle for gay rights. It’s a gimmick in search of a punch-line, much like Phone Booth, another New York-set lone man-in-peril piffle.

Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is an ex-cop convicted of stealing and destroying the world’s most priceless MacGuffin, a diamond belonging to Harris’ David Englander. After escaping from prison, Nick hatches a plan to threaten jumping from the highest floor of the Roosevelt Hotel, gathering the attention of literally dozens of onlookers and an equal number of media types and their choppers. It’s all a ruse, as the audience is too quickly told, since Nick is only the diversion for his brother (Jamie Bell) and girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez, the flash of her in lingerie the only reason to see this movie), who are across the street inside Englander’s vault pulling off an actual diamond heist in order to prove Nick’s innocence.

Got that? Everything else here is designed to soften the film’s fall as it slowly plummets to its death. There’s a fallow subplot about cop corruption involving Nick ex-partner (Anthony MacKie), and the inexplicable presence of Lydia Mercer, a disgraced police psychologist whose world-weary, hard-living persona is instantly discredited by the fact that she’s played by the inescapably gorgeous Elizabeth Banks.

As contrived as it is convoluted, screenwriter Pablo Fenjves’ tall tale relies on the absurd premise that the reappearance of a man famously convicted for stealing a precious gem will provide the perfect cover for the actual theft of that same jewel taking place literally across the street. It also relies on plot holes and other oddities—e.g., for reasons never explained, Nick wipes away his fingerprints from inside the hotel room before crawling out its window, yet later knowingly provides a print to Lydia that reveals his identity. And, the rushed, ridiculous climax is irrational on multiple levels, not the least of which is its slipshod, climactic concept of legal due process.

But beyond the illogical narrative and character motives is the fact that Man on a Ledge isn’t nearly as exhilarating as its title suggests. Instead of high-flying fun, it’d be better off taking a long walk off a short perch.

Neil Morris

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