If you’ve seen the trailer for this, then you have all but been given the high points and low points of this crime drama. Still… although this isn’t Academy-Award winning material, there is a decent, capable writer keeping the story-telling tightly woven into a satisfying premise and in that, it manages a plot that is entertaining if not brilliant.
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is an innocent man. Trouble is he doesn’t just want a courtroom to know that, he wants the world to know. Or that is want his clever rouse would have the NYC police believe. Following a fight with his little brother (Jamie Bell) at their father’s funeral, Nick sees, and uses the thrown punches and confusion as his one opportunity to escape the custody of his prison guards – and the confines of prison. This sets into motion his well-laid plans to clear his name. First he has to gain attention, something he does by standing on the ledge of a Manhattan sky scraper and threatening suicide, and then he demands a specific negotiator from the first detective (Edward Burns) to make contact.
Detective Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) is not a woman without a sullied reputation. A mere month prior she lost a jumper, a fellow man in blue – and Nick knows that. What NYC’s finest don’t know yet is Nick’s own sordid past. A former cop, Nick knows procedure and was a good cop but then he was accused of stealing a diamond from one of New York’s wealthiest real estate mogul’s. Nick is not about to go back until he has proven himself innocent. No matter the cost.
In contrast to some of the terrific action flicks that have graced America’s screens in the last five years, this title could come across as… dull. If you look at it from such a narrow-minded outlook, then that is exactly how you may perceive Man on a Ledge. I won’t mislead you by saying it isn’t sometimes tedious or that it is “thrilling” but for the most part, it is an out of the ordinary hypothesis that puts its own spin on the popular sub-genre. Some of the run-time does seem to lag but the writers and the director kept things hopping thanks to the caper that is taking place across the way from Nick’s perch. Unfortunately, I think the climax is too anti-climatic but the final 20 minutes are exciting (to a point). That I cannot argue.
A box office miss, this one released earlier this past year and was buried underneath bigger blockbusters or better promoted films with a popular studio backing them. It is a shame really, because while not the smartest, most high-tech, this film is rather intelligent – purely from its perspective of taking some risks and making its own mistakes. I liked the twist in the story that pitted it as a caper-like screenplay and was impressed by the well-known cast list which also includes Ed Harris and Kyra Sedgwick (who’s Southern accent is notably gone – is it okay if I already miss her television alter-ego even if she isn’t gone yet?). Despite the lack of character development (it is virtually impossible here), writers did a relatively good job with what they were given to work with and I thought the acting was intense enough to be believable. The cast share some nice moments as their respective characters and many seem to “bond” even in the span of a 24-hour day; such intense emotions in an intense situation would tend to cement themselves in a short period of time. Saying that, I do think there wasn’t enough realism in the plot, making the ending feel more… simulated and abrupt than perhaps it needed to be. Including some questions that are left unanswered.
Anything that takes its time but still keeps a viewer locked to the television screen is something worth sticking with. It didn’t ever bore me with its script but that doesn’t mean the film couldn’t have benefitted from better pacing. Certain moments come across as too shoddy (or just plain old “sloppy”) but what it lacks in decent suspense, it makes up for in making us care for Nick’s dilemma – good character growth or not. In the end, the movie is a respectable piece of film work – plus the terrifying will-he-or-won’t-he premise makes this a different kind of edge-of-your-seat thrills, and that alone forms some absorbing suspense with a lingering question relatable to humanity that may leave us questioning the fairness or rightness of the legal system.
(PG13 content concerns: profanity is present in the form of one f-word, sh*t, h*ll and da*n. There are some intense moments when it appears Nick will go over. Two men are shot – one is killed; another is beaten up and threatened. There are a few minor sexual innuendoes between a man and his girlfriend [she remarks on an ex who was the best in bed]. There is a robbery.)