California Literary Review

Movie Review: Man on a Ledge


January 28th, 2012 at 12:35 pm

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Movie Poster: Man on a Ledge

Man on a Ledge

Directed by Asger Leth
Screenplay by Pablo F. Fenjves

Ed Harris, Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Anthony Mackie, Jamie Bell, Génesis Rodríguez

How long is Man on a Ledge? 102 minutes.
What is Man on a Ledge rated? PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.

CLR Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Movie Still: Man on a Ledge

Elizabeth Banks and Sam Worthingtonn in Man on a Ledge

A ridiculous plot makes for a bland heist thriller.

The heist movie is one of the most beloved genres in cinema and its great legacy is tarnished by films like Man on a Ledge. If a filmmaker wants to make a good heist movie, he or she must bring something to the genre that audiences haven’t seen before. Heat was a slow burn supported by an excellent script and the now famous diner scene with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Reservoir Dogs was a heist movie without a heist, filled with Quentin Tarantino’s minutiae-fueled dialogue. Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 boasts not only an amazing cast, but one of the smartest twist endings in all of cinema.

Man on a Ledge, on the other hand, is the type of movie film snobs are talking about when they say “I don’t watch anything produced by Hollywood.” If they were to base their opinions on this film alone, they couldn’t be faulted for despising the mindless faux spectacles on which this type of movie thrives.

The film opens with a man climbing out a New York City hotel window apparently debating whether or not to jump. We soon find out that the man is Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), a disgraced cop and escaped convict. When the police are sent to the hotel room to talk Nick down, he replies that he will only talk to Detective Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks). Mercer, who is dealing with her own problems at present, reluctantly shows up and attempts to prevent Nick from jumping. The more she talks to him, though, the more she thinks he doesn’t really want to kill himself at all.

Gradually we learn that Nick was sent to prison two years ago for stealing one of the world’s largest diamonds from billionaire David Englander (Ed Harris). He claims he is innocent and to prove it, he broke out of prison and plans to steal the diamond for real to prove Englander set him up. While he is distracting the police and onlookers, Nick’s brother, Joey (Jamie Bell), is breaking into Englander’s super-secure building with such ease that the Ocean’s crew would be green with envy.

As Mercer tries to understand what is really going on, she is getting heat from fellow detective Jack Dougherty (Edward Burns) and her chief, Dante Marcus (Titus Welliver), to get Nick inside or the SWAT team will move in. Nick, meanwhile, stands helpless as Joey and his girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), try to penetrate Englander’s fortress.

Man on a Ledge is the feature film debut of director Asger Leth whose previous film was the documentary Ghosts of Cite Soleil. Leth has apparently seen too many big Hollywood action movies as he tries to throw everything he can at the audience in an attempt to distract from the absurd script. The movie was written by Pablo F. Fenjves whose experience up until now has been made-for-TV movies. And it shows. Fenjves’ script is so ridiculous and filled with holes that it’s a wonder this project was ever green lighted.

For example, Nick says at one point that he has been planning his heist for six months. Six months of planning for two amateurs to collect blueprints, gather supplies, learn the security system’s timing and practice Mission: Impossible-style acrobatics. Nick also chooses Mercer because she lost a jumper three months ago even though she did everything she could to talk him down. What if that hadn’t happened? He wouldn’t have known there was a cop he could trust when he began planning while still in prison.

The story is ludicrous from beginning to end, so let’s move on. One would think with such a strong cast that the acting would be at least mildly passable. Instead, we get a collection of caricatures, none of which is grounded in reality. Worthington is unnecessarily intense from the start. If you begin at 11, there’s nowhere else to go with your performance. The normally entertaining Aussie actor also lets his accent slip and slide all over the place, which might make for a fun drinking game: take a drink every time he pronounces “my” like “boy.” Worst of all is Banks who is the least believable police detective of all time. Banks is a talented comedic actor (just watch her on 30 Rock), but a hard-drinking, loose cannon cop she is not.

The normally terrific Harris is so over-the-top here that you might think he was intentionally torpedoing his own performance. If this was the direction Leth wanted to take with the character, why not just get Nicolas Cage? At least we expect this type of performance from Cage and that way we would get to see him do what he does best.

Filled with sequences and encounters we have seen hundreds of times before, Man on a Ledge is a third-rate action movie at best.

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Man on a Ledge Trailer

  • Ben

    Talk about a one sided review! My daughter and her friend came home last night after catching this flick and they were totally pumped up about the movie stating that they were “on their seats” the whole time. They plan on seeing it again. All things considering, with the price of movie tickets these days….I’d say it had to have been a damn good movie.

  • Joe

    Very one sided. This is why I never end up listening to movie critics. They analyze the movies way too much. Remember – it was made to ENTERTAIN. Besides, half the movies that the critics give the worst ratings to are the most fun.

  • xyz

    >> The heist movie is one of the most beloved genres in
    >> cinema and its great legacy is tarnished by films like
    >> Man on a Ledge.

    You should be begging and thanking the people who made this movie; how else could the “true” stars possibly shine without the vast darkness there to offset them?

    Your review makes no sense; if this is such a bleak black
    hole of suck, it is the perfect example of everything not to do.

    If it fails on every level, perhaps it shows precisely
    how to make a *good* heist movie.

    Maybe you despite it because they are doing your job for you, and you are no longer needed at that point?

  • TOny

    Loved it and would see it again. Bad Review from the reviewer in my opinion, too many negatives when the movie was a good action flick and kept your attention and was worth the money but hey I guess everyone is entitled to opinions. If you compare this movie to HEAT or Thief or even Point Break for that Matter than yeah it doesnt stack up but that is not to say it hurts the heist genre, no way. I was definitely a contender for a good Jan movie release.

  • Beela

    “…must bring something to the genre that audiences haven’t seen before.”
    What an idiot.

  • Matthew Newlin

    Thank you all so much for your comments. I agree that a good action movie can just be a lot of fun, but this just wasn’t one as far as I’m concerned. “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” was pure escapist fun but it also worked as a serious film. The role of a critic is to look at the film from both angles.

  • Chuck Norris

    …if i were on that ledge, i would roundhouse kick the entire city, and it would be an earthquake flick. Im Chuck Norris, and i approve this message.

  • Clara

    I agree with the reviewer, the movie was mediocre at best. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it, as I hardly was able to sit through the whole thing.

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