Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
Funny thing about standing on ledges: it’s getting off of them that prove to be the hardest part. We’ll get back to that in a bit. First, let’s discuss Man on a Ledge.
The film stars the current Aussie in the spotlight, Sam Worthington. Following the lead role in a small independent film named Avatar (it did okay at the box office so I’m told), he’d go on to be cast in other low profile movies like Terminator: Salvation and Clash of the Titans. Think whatever you’d like to about those films … now resist the urge to blame Worthington; because let’s be fair, only his part in Batman vs. the Robots had any depth to it. I’m not even sure the other two films have typewritten screenplays.
Well in this film, he’s an ex-cop doing time for stealing a diamond large enough to get Kim Kardashian’s attention and, stop me if you heard this before: he says he was framed. (I told you to stop me.) So in order to prove his innocence, he plays a 72-step metaphorical chess game against Ed Harris and the police, with baby brother (Jamie Bell) and baby brother’s ridiculously hot girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) helping to keep the pieces in motion. Elizabeth Banks plays the negotiator sent in to talk him off the titular ledge who, stop me if you heard this before: begins to believe the protagonist is telling the truth. (Okay, fine, I get it. You’re not going to stop me.)
What follows is a game of obvious setups, unfathomably accurate contingency plans, and the worst special effects scene since the flipping convertible car crash of In Time. Now, one might be saying to themselves: Boy, this review isn’t painting the film in a very positive light. And you’d be sort of right. This review isn’t extolling many virtues on the execution of a script that wants to be oh so clever, and yet just follows the basic playbook without any noticeable deviation.
Still, that’s not to say one can’t enjoy the movie. Being a January release, one shouldn’t think they’re going to see something like The Usual Suspects in terms of keeping the audience off-balance and delivering on its premise. As long as you go into this with moderate expectations (and manage not to spit your coke out on the people in front of you when the terrible CGI effect comes into play), this is a decent way to spend 103 minutes away from reality.
The performances all-around are fine, nothing amazing, but definitely serviceable. More importantly, the interplay between the actors works well. It would have been nice to avoid the classic movie pitfall of casting a very recognizable actor (I’ll be nice and avoid saying who) in a seemingly insignificant part, only to reveal they have a bigger part to play (seriously, it’s almost distractingly obvious this character will factor into something more later in the film); but that’s perhaps more of a gripe for hardcore moviegoers and film critics who see more movies in one year than the average person might see in five.
Getting back to where this whole review started, the best parts of the movie occur while Worthington is up on the ledge as his meticulously crafted plan is set in motion by those around him. Figuring out how he’ll get off his perch is where the film begins to turn into a small mess of hurried resolutions. Had the screenwriter and director spent more time figuring out how to wrap things up, this might have been a very welcome surprise to start the year. As it stands, Man on a Ledge certainly passes for casual entertainment but don’t feel like you’re missing out if you wait for it to hit the home market.
Man on a Ledge hits theaters on January 27, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.