31 January 2012

Man on a Ledge

Elizabeth Banks, left, and Sam Worthington are shown in a scene from "Man on a Ledge."
It's called "Man on a Ledge." And sure enough, when the movie begins, there is a man. And within a couple minutes, before he has spoken his fourth line of dialogue, that man is on a ledge.

The movie has many faults, but false advertising is not among them.

The man is Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), once a cop, now an escaped convict. The ledge is on the 21st floor of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

Because this is a movie, we know with about 99 percent certainly that Nick will not jump to his death, that he is an innocent man, that he was framed for the theft of a $40 million diamond from businessman David Englander (Ed Harris) and that his innocence will be proven by his brother, Joey (Jamie Bell), and Joey's girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), who are across the street breaking into Englander's building. And, in accordance with Roger Ebert's Law of Economy of Characters (which states, "Movie budgets make it impossible for any film to contain unnecessary characters"), we know the people responsible for the frame job are on on screen right in front of us.

Director Asger Leth and screenwriter Pablo Fenjves suggest tension but never follow through and actually create it. We can't invest ourselves in Nick's plan because we don't know what it is until it's late in the game. At the same time, the scenario of Nick on the ledge feels too contrived to generate any real suspense.

Leth and Fenjves try to inject more character drama with Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), a police officer who specializes in talking down jumpers and who was traumatized when a rookie cop threw himself off a bridge on her watch. They set up the back story, then do nothing with it. Lydia quickly becomes convinced of Nick's innocence, her inner turmoil forgotten, the character entirely inessential to the remainder of the movie.

Still, a strong lead performance could go a long way toward erasing these stumbles. Instead, we get Worthington struggling with a New York accent and hampered by a script that doesn't know how much to reveal and when to reveal it—and let's face it, when it finally lays down all of its cards, the hand it plays is simply uninteresting.

Under these conditions, the ledge is the movie's most dynamic performer.

Greg's Grade: D+

(Rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language. 102 minutes.)

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