Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) checks into a New York City hotel, goes to his room on the 21st floor, and promptly climbs out onto the ledge. Police negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) is assigned to talk him back in, but it isn’t long before she realises that there’s more to all this than meets the eye…
It should be all but impossible to screw up this sort of suspense thriller, but Man on a Ledge comes close partly because it throws in multiple plots one on top of another to muddy the water so that we don’t know what’s going on in the first half of the film – and as a consequence, don’t much care either which means the thrills fail to kick in. Quite a feat to have a man on a ledge, a wrongly convicted ex-cop on the run after a jail break trying to prove his innocence, a twisted tale of police corruption and an elaborate jewel heist and make it actually feel a little dull, but this film finds new ways to do almost exactly that.
The film does pick up in places: the photography of Worthington’s character on the ledge is dazzling, while most of the plot thrills come from the jewel heist which features Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez, and their banter also provides the lion’s share of the fun of the film. Worthington is solid enough as the lead, Elizabeth Banks fine but rather miscast in a clichéd role as a burned-out tough-as-nail cop. A lot of top-notch talent such as William Sadler, Titus Welliver and Edward Burns is sadly sidelined, while Ed Harris’ bad guy is just too archly wicked for its own good: even if this were a Bond film, he’d be asked to dial it back in a bit.
Ultimately though there are too many gaping plot holes, unsubtle plodding ‘twists’ telegraphed a mile off, tired stereotypes and a general lamentable lack of script realism – especially in the final 20 minutes when things crank up and credibility is most needed. It means that the whole thing ends up falling apart father badly amidst the otherwise competently staged gun fights and foot chases.
It all rather undercuts what should have been a perfectly decent mid-league thriller: it’s still just about fine for an undemanding mid-afternoon watch if you go in with a lack of expectations, but that’s all.