MAN ON A LEDGE
By Gary Murray
Starring Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks and Jamie Bell
Written by Pablo F. Fenjves
Directed by Asger Leth
Running time 102 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
January is one of those times of the year when the major studios dump films that have little chance for key success. The dead of winter combined with the overload of Oscar bait flicks have a one-two punch on the cinema audience. The patrons either go for a critical darling from the last year or some flick that has been on the shelf for an extended period of time. That is why it is such a pleasant surprise to take part in such a fun little caper film as Man on a Ledge.
The story of Man of a Ledge is about a man who is on a ledge. Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is a former cop in prison. When his father dies, Nick is given a police escorted pass to attend the funeral. At the gravesite, he sees his opportunity and makes his get away. Instead of making his escape to the border, he heads to the city. He takes a suite on one of the upper floors of a hotel, has a fancy meal and goes out on the ledge. Nick threatens to jump.
Lydia (Elizabeth Banks) is called in as hostage negotiator. She has had problems with the higher-ups and her last negotiation didn’t go well. Once she gets on the scene, Lydia senses that something just doesn’t add up. He does not fit the profile and the details of the situation are not that clear-cut. Something bigger is going on.
The ‘something bigger’ of the plot concerns Nick’s brother Joey (Jamie Bell), a break-in and proving that things are not what they seem. The film also revolves around a local businessman Englander (Ed Harris) who may have more to do with Nick’s incarceration that one would expect. It all ties together with a series of twists and turns that leave plot holes so big that an eighteen wheeler could be driven through them. The best thing to do when watching Man on a Ledge is not to think too hard about the machination and enjoy the spectacle.
Director Asger Leth takes the script by Pablo F. Fenjves and gives it a manic pace. A film where the main protagonist is in a confined space could become a bit boring but Leth handles the challenge as a obsessed plot point. With an almost Hitchcock-like glee, he keeps the audience with our actors, hanging one the edge with our protagonist. Eventually the film opens up and we go more toward the traditional action genre, but for awhile the film revels in on the ledge paranoia.
Sam Worthington has the hardest job of a Man on a Ledge. He has to keep the film moving by being stuck in a very confined area. The actor presents a very ‘in charge’ reading while playing it erratic. It is a brilliant performance given by a great actor. This film would not have worked without a performance as strong as Worthington delivers. The Avatar actor shows that he can be more than just a cog in a special effects driven film.
Elizabeth Banks is one of the most versatile actresses in Hollywood. She is equally adept at comedy and drama. Here she takes what could have been a traditional back-bench role and turns it into a dramatic and funny turn. This role shows that she can carry the bulk of a film while still letting her co-star get top billing.
Man on a Ledge is one of those check your brain at the door, popcorn chewing flicks that are just fun to watch. It is not meant to be anything more than a thrill ride and it delivers on that level. Man on a Ledge is not a serious examination of the legal system but a fun little trifle. On that level it works in spades. It will never win any awards but it does what it sets out to do.