Man on a Ledge falls firmly into the category of the “time filler” film. It’s a competently made, never dull suspense yarn that seems perfectly content being average and unassuming. The problem is that it’s a little too unassuming. A setup like this should wring suspense out of the audience a la Phone Booth or other single location films, but Man on a Ledge chooses the path of lazy banter and increasingly ridiculous plot developments. You’re never bored, but you’re also aware of how much better it could be.
Sam Worthington is Nick Cassidy, an escaped convict who has checked in to a plush suite at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. He orders some room service, eats it, and nonchalantly makes his way out to the ledge outside his window. It’s not long before bloodthirsty crowds are gathering, along with the cops. On the beat to talk him down is Lydia Mercer (Banks), a negotiator who recently failed to prevent a rookie cop from jumping off a bridge.
Director Asger Leth, working from a screenplay by Pablo F. Fenjves, keeps the setup exposition short and compact, allowing for the action on the ledge to gain momentum quickly. Problems arise, however, when Nick’s real motivations come to light. Needless to say, these developments completely undercut any suspense the film had built up and from there it’s a series of mostly ridiculous heist sequences and a severely convenient ending.
The cast here is excellent – on paper. Casting Sam Worthington as a would-be-empathetic lead is pushing the limits of his capabilities as an actor. He’s more of a presence than a relatable human being. Serviceable supporting work is turned in by Elizabeth Banks, Edward Burns, and an underused Ed Harris. Relative newcomer Genesis Rodriguez makes the grade for having what must be one of the most strategically filmed cleavages of all time. I’m not complaining – just observing and reporting.
Man on a Ledge will be lost and forgotten in a matter of months, but it’s suitable filler fare for the cold winter months. The script was a few rewrites away from being a solid suspense piece, but instead settles into a talky, obvious second half. It does deserve this: it’s never dull. There’s always a subplot going on, regardless of its necessity to the story. It’s the kind of movie that Redbox was invented for, meaning there’s no way it can be recommended as a top-dollar, first-run must see. Bored and hung-over? It’ll get the job done.
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Length: 102 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.
Theatrical Release: January 27, 2012
Directed by: Asger Leth
Written by: Pablo F. Fenjves
Cast: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Anthony Mackie, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris