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Film Review | Man on a Ledge

With such a wonderfully straightforward title, it's a shame this suspense thriller is just a tad too tangled for its own good.

Teodor Reljic
17 March 2012, 12:00am
Not as simple as it looks: Sam Worthington puts himself in a precarious situation.
There's something admirable about a straight-to-the-point title like 'Man on a Ledge'. Just as the Samuel L. Jackson-starring exploitation actioner Snakes on a Plane immediately telegraphed what you're going to be in for - and grabbed some headlines as well as extra bums on seats in the process - one gets the impression that the team behind this suspense thriller aimed to create a similar pulling point.

Sadly, the ensuing film hardly lives up to the boldness of its title.

The unfortunately knotted story begins with an appropriate adrenaline kick, though. Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is mysteriously on the run. Checking in at a five-star New York hotel and leaving a cryptic note with room service, he steps outside the window of the high-rise building as if to commit suicide.



As police mobilise on the ground and above, Cassidy refuses to speak to any of the on-duty officers and negotiators - save for Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), who is on leave of absence after she failed to convince a fellow police officer not to commit suicide a month earlier.

As more and more people gather below the hotel and Mercer begins to reluctantly chip away at Cassidy's elusive - possibly criminal - past, things come to a head when a web of intrigue - headed by corrupt diamond dealer David Englander (Ed Harris) is revealed... one that Cassidy aims to quash for good with the help of his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his sister-in-law to-be Angie (Genesis Rodriguez).

Though the film may not be as tight-and-taut as its title seems to suggest, there is something wonderfully undemanding about the way the twists unravel and the characters interact.

Asger Leth directs an old school potboiler, one that perhaps would have found a better fit on television - even more so as an hour-long episode rather than a full-length feature.

It has immediate appeal as an underdog story - with some of the crowd on the streets, egging Nick on, declaring their post-Occupy Wall Street angst very obviously. Worthington and Harris are both perfectly cast as working class victim and corporate cobra, though if Harris is slumming it in a low-brow thriller, Worthington is problematic because of his accent - we're meant to believe that he's a hard-bitten and experienced 'Noo Yawke' cop, but the Avatar star's native Aussie accent slips through far too frequently for this to happen.

Bell and Rodriguez make for good comic relief, if nothing else (apart from, that is, Rodriguez's rather gratuitous costume change scene mid-film). They have good chemistry and their screwball relationship is amusing, with Joey as the gawky geek and Angie as the sexy Latina badass.

But their covert operation also brings in an unfortunate layer of tacked-on twists to what could have been a far simpler and much more special little thriller. As they work behind the scenes to help Nick out, the titular ledge gets abandoned pretty quickly.

It's Banks's Lydia who emerges as the most interesting character out of the lot. A better film would have placed its focus squarely on her.

When you think about it, the idea comes packed with psychological drama: a police negotiator, haunted by the failure to rescue a colleague from suicide, is called in for yet another suicide negotiation. Because the prospective jumper doesn't give her a choice, she is forced to take the job.

Through her eyes, there would be real pain there.

But if Man on a Ledge is blunt about it's title, it's equally superficial about its ensuing narrative. But at the end of the day, it doesn't pretend to be anything other than popcorn entertainment... in that it makes for perfect visual accompaniment to your popcorn snack. 

Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...