Thursday, May 3, 2012

Man on a Ledge (2012)

The title "Man on a Ledge," could not be more literal. A mere three minutes in, the film's main character, Nick Cassidy -- portrayed by Sam Worthington -- steps out of a New York City hotel window and onto the ledge. Had he jumped off right then and there, he may have saved the viewer an hour and a half of over-convoluted plot twists, cheesy dialogue and an overabundance of characters.

But, he doesn't jump. Instead, he balances himself on the ledge, forty floors up from the ground, and watches as national attention comes his way within minutes. Thinking he's on the verge of committing suicide, the New York City Police calls in its negotiator team, led by Jack Dougherty (Edward Burns) to try to talk him out of it.

Nick, however, is not a suicidal maniac. We learn that he is a former cop who was arrested after he was found guilty of stealing a $40 million diamond from businessman David Englander (Ed Harris.) Nick maintained his innocence, alleging that Englander employed policeman to frame Englander, and accomplished so by knocking him unconscious and placing the diamond on him. Englander's motivation would have been to collect the insurance money that he lost in the economic collapse.

Since nobody believed his story, Nick decided to take drastic action by escaping prison while granted a leave to attend his father's funeral. He eludes the supervision of his guards, but not after being involved in a fight with his brother, Joey (Jamie Bell). From then, he decided to get his story out to the world by standing on a ledge as a means to attract attention. However, his intentions are twofold; we soon learn that across the street, Joey and his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are attempting to break into Englander's vault to find the diamond and prove Nick's innocence -- and that's just in the film's first 25 minutes.

Unwilling to speak to Dougherty, Nick personally requests a different negotiator named Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) who is seeking her own personal redemption. Just recently, her attempt to inhibit a potential jumper was unsuccessful, and she's been unable to sleep ever since. Supervising both Mercer and Dougherty is Dante Marcus (Titus Welliver) who tries to keep the entire situation under control, as crowds of people, including media, swarm the surrounding areas to watch the developing scene.

Sam Worthington on a ledge.
From then on, we get a cluster of different scenes, ranging from Nick's interactions with Mercer, Englander talking with his associates, shots of the crowd at the base of the building, and Joey and Angie pulling off an Entrapment/Ocean's 11-like heist as they make their way through a building en route to Englander's vault to retrieve the diamond and prove Nick's innocence. Their elaborate maneuvers involve wires, ropes, bungee cords, explosives and other tricks, which amazingly occur flawlessly even though we are given every impression that Joey is a lifelong loser and Angie is an airhead. But by far the most captivating part of the film occurs during this sequence -- when Angie changes into a tight jumpsuit, showcasing her impressively sculpted body in underwear. That scene alone is probably more interesting than the rest of the film combined.

Oh and there's one more character -- Nick's former partner Mike Ackerman (Anthony Mackie), who we quickly learn was probably not as loyal to Nick as previously believed.

The first 45 minutes or so of Man on a Ledge are bearable. While perched on the ledge, the film does a decent job developing Nick's back story, slowly informing us why he is on the ledge to begin with. But as the film progresses, too many characters are developed and the film loses its way.

Just when you are waiting for the payoff at the film's conclusion, wondering how exactly it will end, the sequence of events that materialize are almost laughable. To describe it in a word, it's a mess. Englander, who is supposed to be this brilliant, savvy businessman, makes folly after folly that ultimately leads to his demise.

But the movie puts all of it's money on a gimmick. Worthington's character spend practically all of his screen time on a ledge. To film this, director Asger Leth never shows both Worthington and the crowd hundreds of feet below in the same shot. Occasionally, we get shots from street-level that show us a man standing on a ledge, which is obviously a stuntman.

Since the movie contains so many characters, and tries to compact a convoluted storyline into a 90-minute film, I can at least vouch that Man on a Ledge never really has any lull throughout. However, I still think all parties would have been better served if Worthington's presence on the ledge lasted five minutes -- and not 90.

~ Review by Ddubbs

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