DIRECTED BY ASGER LETH
The marketing team behind Man on a Ledge has made no secret of the fact that the film’s high-concept premise is actually a high-stakes, high-altitude red herring: when ex-cop turned escaped convict Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) climbs out of the 21st floor window of a Manhattan hotel, the apparently suicidal stunt isn’t a cry for help, but a declaration of innocence, as well as a calculated diversion. In essence, Man on a Ledge is a heist film, and the real drama is across the street, where Cassidy’s brother (Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend (a conspicuously chesty Genesis Rodriguez) are staging an elaborate, Mission: Impossible–style infiltration to obtain the evidence that will exonerate him.
No matter how fanciful the setup, heist films thrive on kernels of plausibility, and the unremitting absurdity of Man on a Ledge is the first of its many failings. If movie logic is sufficiently elastic to accommodate Worthington’s attention-grabbing feint, Bell and Rodriguez stretch it beyond the breaking point as two of the least convincing safecrackers in the history of the medium, confronted by a quintessentially dubious security system. Worse still is Ed Harris as maniacal real estate magnate David Englander, whose methods in framing Cassidy are flatly preposterous, and motives for doing so stupefyingly petty.
A pandering, populist caricature of a morally bankrupt fat cat, Harris’ Englander plays as though transplanted from a satire, as does Kyra Sedgwyck’s obnoxiously cynical TV reporter, who places a bet with her cameraman that Cassidy will jump before the credits roll. But director Asger Leth has no designs on a redux of Dog Day Afternoon, and generally opts for sincerity, save for some tepidly risqué comic banter between Bell and Rodriguez. Most of the laughs here are actually unintentional, courtesy of calamitous dialogue from screenwriter Pablo F. Fenjves. (Lines normally reserved for trailer voice-over, like “How far would you go to get back at a man who took everything from you?,” somehow escape into the actual film.)
Worthington, meanwhile, is better suited to his typical cut-and-thrust fare than this mostly static role. After he spends the better part of 103 minutes in conversation with a police psychologist (Elizabeth Banks, also a less than obvious choice), Man on a Ledge seems to go out of its way just to give its man some action. Then again, in a film where nearly everyone goes about their business in sensationally inefficient fashion, the needlessly extended finale is probably a perfectly apt touch.