Nowhere near the “Ledge” of glory

man on a ledge

Man on a Ledge

dir. Asger Leth

Release Date: Jan 27, 12

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Man on a Ledge is a perfectly serviceable B-movie that very slightly benefits from its absolute embrace of cliched silliness at every turn. Often we see a movie with a man pushed to the edge of sanity by his circumstances (if you missed the titular metaphor, the movie will kindly remind you around three dozen times), a cop with a big secret, a break-in that involves fevered shouts of “But all the wires are red!” and the revelation that roughly half the cast is actually the villain, working for the main bad guy. Rare is the movie with the knowing or unknowing willingness to include all of those things, and toss in a family subplot and some gratuitious, PG-13-friendly T&A for good measure.

Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington, affectless as ever) is a man on the edge. Alright, I’m done, and I will indeed be here until Thursday. Anyway, after being jailed for stealing a diamond worth $40 million from David Englander (Ed Harris), a real estate mogul, Nick breaks out with the intention of clearing his name, with the help of his brother (Jamie Bell) and his brother’s preturnaturally tan, shapely girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez). That there’s more going on than meets the eye with Nick’s seeming suicide attempt atop one of Englander’s hotels is clear almost immediately, but what’s disappointing is how quickly the film shows its hand.

There’s much double-crossing in store, as one often expects whenever Titus Welliver shows up in anything, but trying to wrap one’s head around the plot convolutions isn’t nearly as fun as just going along for the ride. A willingness to suspend disbelief (and I mean all of it) will go a long way in getting some enjoyment out of Man on a Ledge. Worthington mostly just mutters furtively and trembles while on a ledge, but there’s some enjoyable character acting here. Some effort can be found with Anthony Mackie’s shady cop and Elizabeth Banks, who hasn’t looked this at ease in a film in a while now, as the negotiator. Less interesting is Harris, who can play this kind of holier-than-thou bit in his sleep, and does.

The heist sequences and campy “Maybe I will jump!” moments are enough to keep Ledge watchable, but that’s less true for the patently ridiculous attempts to lend it present-day context. It’d be folly to think that a film about a desperate felon stealing from the rich who took everything from him and got away with it wouldn’t stretch itself at every turn to extract still more ham-handed allegory. This isn’t helped by the depiction of New York City as a bloodthirsty place where people cheer for a man to throw himself off a building, only to be swayed by his plight into starting riotous chants of “Attica!” Ledge is like a satire of its sub-subgenre, but when it’s at its best, it has some level of camp appeal for those in tune with such things. And in a time of year with such slim pickings at the movies, that’s not such a terrible thing.

(Postscript: For those of you who’ve seen Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg, I could only think of how great it would be if Sam Worthington was the star of the daily serial Ledge Man, doubly so if Ann Savage was still his costar.)