Back in 1998 I went and saw The Negotiator starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey, and when I left the theater at around 1am I was more awake than I was when I went in two hours and twenty minutes earlier. The film successfully brought me to the edge of my seat time and time again, and when it was all said and done, my nerves were shot and I felt like I’d just gone through everything right alongside the film’s characters.
Man on a Ledge, which stars Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks, aims to give that same sort of “anything can happen” vibe, but unfortunately it mostly falls flat. The story is about an ex-cop named Nick Cassidy (Worthington) who was framed for stealing a diamond from wealthy real estate tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris), and is now trying to prove his innocence. In order to do so, Cassidy has to literally go out on a ledge (in this case, it’s a ledge on the side of Roosevelt Hotel) and get the attention of the entire nation.
The thing is, this isn’t the only story going on. At the same time, Nick’s brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are across the street attempting to rob Englander of the same diamond his brother was already framed for stealing so that they can prove his innocence. Meanwhile, back on the ledge, Nick asks specifically for police psychologist Lydia Mercer (Banks) to be the one who tries to talk him down.
The main problem is that, unlike the lead character in The Negotiator, who tries to clear his name by taking hostages himself, there’s never really any tension brought on by Nick being out on this ledge. He’s out there, he’s got the attention of people, and he technically could fall at any moment, but everything moves a little too cleanly for us to ever really be worried about him during the first two acts. We learn very early on that he’s on the ledge in order to cause a distraction that will allow his brother to break into Englander’s vault and retrieve the diamond, so the place where the most tension should be found — the ledge – is a place where we can almost sit back and relax while watching.
The heist portion of the film is also a bit lackluster, especially in suspense, simply due to the fact that Joey and Angie are almost used as comedic relief to break the supposed tension that Nick’s ledge act should be causing. So when it all comes down to it, neither story brings any tension, which really hurts a film that aims to be a thriller, as it’s hard to create a good thriller without any thrills.
Now I’m all for movies that require you to turn off your brain and enjoy, but Man on a Ledge asks that to be done quite a bit too often. There are so many implausible scenarios that they begin to weaken the overall story, and so much relies on characters doing exactly what needs to be done in order for things to go in Nick’s favour that it’s almost laughable as they do. This leads right into the final confrontation, which is so anticlimactic that it makes the rest of the film feel like it’s been a roller-coaster ride.
That said, the movie isn’t exactly boring, it’s just not exciting. Worthington fills a spot that could have been played by anyone, and Banks is decent, but their chemistry just never gets to where it should be, mainly because there’s no real reason for us to care about them. Sure, we want to see good prevail, but aside from that, these characters are just vessels to get us from point A to point B in the story.
Man on a Ledge isn’t a bad movie; it’s just an average movie. It lacks the tension and thrills needed to bring it to a level where it keeps audiences on edge throughout, and so much relies on so many things happening that it can never really be taken seriously. However, if you do find yourself still interested in seeing it, you likely won’t feel like your time was completely wasted once it’s done, and that’s got to count for something, right?
The audio portions of the film work well enough, with the street sounds of New York coming through nice and clear, along with the crowds shouting and the wind blowing as we watch the characters up on the side of this building. The visuals are also quite strong, with only a few grainy scenes, but overall a solid transfer onto Blu-ray.
The special features are minimal; however, for a film that barely made a blip on the box-office radar, even a small making of feature is better than nothing.
“The Ledge” – This is a 15-minute featurette that covers the making of process of the film. Cast and crew talk about shooting on location, and on a set built to look like the side of the building. They also touch on how each actor stepped outside onto the ledge before shooting in order to see how it felt. Needless to say, most of them did it once and never thought about doing it again.
Trailer with Commentary by Elizabeth Banks – This is a first for me, and I’m sure a first for many, as Elizabeth Banks actually gives a commentary to the film’s trailer. There’s no film commentary, but the trailer is covered. In the end, it’s actually a funny two-minute piece, where Banks talks about how she’d still “tap” Ed Harris, and so forth.
Man on a Ledge is a movie that passes time, and that’s about it. It lacks thrills and tension, which are key aspects to any thriller, but it still ends up being watchable to a certain degree – so long as you don’t allow yourself to really think about what’s happening while watching.
Summit Entertainment Presents Man on a Ledge. Directed by: Asger Leth. Written by: Pablo F. Fenjves. Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Anthony Mackie, Genesis Rodriguez, Ed Harris. Running time: 102 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released: June 5, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Elizabeth Banks, Genesis Rodriguez, Jamie Bell, Man on a Ledge, Sam Worthington