Action movies often require a leap of logic from the viewer in order to make all of the pieces fall into place. But in the case of Man on a Ledge, the first big Hollywood feature from Danish documentary Director Asger Leth (Ghosts of Cité Soleil) and bona fide big, mindless mess of clichés and boobs and cops, that leap may just be a little too much for your brain to handle, lest it wind up splattered on the pavement below.
Man (played by blank slate of bland ruggedness, Sam Worthington, failing miserably at attempting not to sound Australian) ends up on Ledge (played stoically by New York’s Roosevelt Hotel), as a part of his grand plan to clear his name and get out of a 25 year prison sentence.
You see, Man (who also answers to Nick Cassidy) is a fugitive who insists he was wrongly imprisoned for stealing the $40 million Monarch Diamond from lizard-y real estate tycoon (Ed Harris: possibly an animatronic version).
As Nick perches on the ledge of the 21st floor, creating a spectacle for the New Yorkers and news crews below and stalling for time while toying with an emotional baggage-laden police negotiator named Lydia (Elizabeth Banks), Nick’s brother Joey (Brit Jamie Bell sporting an impressive New York accent) and Joey’s stereotypically hot and spicy Latina girlfriend Angie (the gloriously named Genesis Rodriguez) are attempting to pull off a search and burgle mission across the street at the evil real estate guy’s office.
In true leap of faith fashion, it’s never explained just how these blue-collar twenty-somethings have the know-how and experience, not to mention the seemingly unlimited supply of Mission Impossible-type equipment needed to rappel down elevator shafts, blow through walls, crack safes and perform various acrobatics while attempting to circumvent million-dollar security systems. But then, TV screenwriter Pablo F. Fenjves clearly doesn’t care so why should we?
Why bother fleshing out these characters, when that time is clearly better spent making Angie peel off her standard issue slinky diamond robber catsuit to reveal a hot pink pushup bra and matching lace panties underneath? Good storytelling is so last year, ample boob shots are timeless.
Meanwhile, back on the ledge, things are getting crazy. Lydia’s desperate to get Man back inside to safety and as she starts to look deeper into his case, she realizes that everything may not be on the up and up.
Could Nick’s former partner (Anthony Mackie) know more than he’s telling? Why is her squad leader (Titus Welliver) so quick to send in the SWAT team? Is there a valid reason for Ed Burns’ presence in this movie?! So many questions so little time, tension or general sense of cinematic peril.
This supposedly twisty and turny heist picture plods along in workmanlike fashion, revealing each eye-rollingly far-fetched plot development, yes, with an odd sense of humour, but also with a tin ear for how these types of movies are supposed to sound and feel.
Gone is the irresistible, knowingly giddy energy inherent in good heist stories, replaced with a reheated, almost parody of the genre that isn’t quite tongue-in-cheek enough to suggest that anyone making the film was in on the joke.
In fact, Man on a Ledge kind of exists in a weird genre purgatory: too dull to be action, too silly to be drama, too dumb to be a thrilling character-driven piece. It just kind of teeters there on the brink of ridiculousness, hoping you don’t think too hard about the events unfolding in front of you.