Situational thrillers are no stranger to Hollywood. Phone Booth made a decent-sized splash back in 2002 and more recently Buried (with Ryan Reynolds) showed us that you can make a movie filmed entirely inside a box. The trick to these films lies within the director and his leading star, because between the two of them they need to create an equal amount of visual and physical intensity. Man on a Ledge almost cracks that code (slightly) in its opening two acts, but it foolishly slips off its own ledge and plunges into mediocre territory.
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is a former cop, now inmate. He’s given leave for his father’s funeral and while attending he manages to get into a fight with his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and escape from police custody. He climbs onto the ledge of a tall building and starts making very peculiar demands.
He asks for negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), despite her not so impressive track record. Nick’s goal is to clear his name and prove his innocence. The plot gets a little more interesting when it is revealed that the fight between his brother was a setup and that while Nick is on the ledge his brother is across the street stealing a diamond from the man who put Nick away (Ed Harris).
Man on a Ledge surprisingly starts out with a promising direction. Asger Leth keeps things looking fresh and shifting, with the camera never getting stuck on one spot while Nick walks the ledge. Leth also splits the film in two, making it both a suspense film and a heist film. Where Leth succeeds in direction leading star Sam Worthington fails in acting.
His accent slips in and out and his emotional range shifts between crying and complaining, with no room for actual character progression. He plays Nick with such a lack of empathy, which hurts the film a lot, because you’re usually supposed to feel bad for the wrongly convicted man who is inches away from ending his life.
Jamie Bell picks up the slack and even though he doesn’t do much with the supporting role his screen presence alone seems to hold more weight than Worthington.
Man on a Ledge boils down to another slightly satisfying heist film. It certainly feels engaging at first, but that warm feeling of mindless entertainment rubs off as soon as the plot takes one too many predictable turns. Leth forces in pointless characters that only get thrown in to try and cleverly mix up some motives, but it all comes crashing down at the end, when logic and story falls off the ledge quicker than Sam Worthington.
Man on a Ledge is the first Blu-Ray since Lionsgate and Summit merged and the 1080p transfer looks remarkably clean and detailed. It’s similar to previous Summit releases (like 50/50) in terms of structuring and color balance. I’m glad to see Lionsgate not dropping the ball with the acquisition of Summit and I look forward to future releases.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is soft and subtle, but precise in sound design. The track may disappoint many at first, but once you actually start paying attention to the detail and balance of the sound you’ll start to appreciate the track. When Nick is on the ledge the entire city can be heard on all channels, with cars and buses buzzing around the back channels and the wind and dialogue on the front. The track keeps this constantly shifting audio balance from start to finish.
There are only two special features on the disc, one of which is simply the trailer with commentary layered over it. Here’s a complete list:
- The Ledge (HD): An interesting feature that shows in detail how they filmed most of the movie on actual sets up high above and not with green screen.
- Trailer with Commentary by Elizabeth Banks (HD): One of the most useless features I’ve ever witnessed. This special feature is simply the trailer, with actress Elizabeth Banks phoning in random comments throughout the trailer. She doesn’t offer much insight.
Man on a Ledge is mostly a harmless/mindless popcorn flick that’ll keep you interested, despite its missteps and gaping problems. The first two acts play much smoother than the last, but even that comes as a surprise. There’s not a whole lot going on in the film and it shows, but director Asger Leth at least makes it look good on a visual level. I don’t have a problem suggesting this as a rental, but I’d stress not adding the title to the collection permanently due to the quality of the film and the lack of bonus content on the disc.