Man On A Ledge aspires to be something of a hybrid film, mixing the micro-locational antics of something like Phone Booth (as the bulk of the film takes place on the titular ledge of a hotel in New York City) and a heist/safecracking film that would love to think it’s in the same league as your Ocean’s Elevens or The Italian Jobs. It does neither especially well, and although its concept is sound, it fails to really exploit it any significant degree. In someone else’s hands, this possibly could’ve been a passable entertainment, but as a debut for first-time feature director Asger Leth, it limps along, attempting to rely on the ersatz charm of lead Sam Worthington to propel some semblence of tension or drive onto the screen. Unfortunately, it largely fails to deliver even the mild thrills that it seems to promise.
Worthington here plays Nick Cassidy, a former NYPD officer sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence for the supposed theft of a $40 million diamond. After a bold daylight escape from custody, he attempts to clear his name by...well, by standing on the ledge of a building and attracting massive amounts of police and public attention while his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and Joey’s girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) pull off a high-stakes break-in of the offices of millionaire David Englander (a slumming Ed Harris), in the hopes that the diamond, for which Englander received a sizable insurance payout for after the alleged theft, will turn up, thus proving Cassidy’s innocence.
If I seem underwhelmed and by-the-numbers in my description of the film’s plot, that’s probably because no one involved in the creation of the film seemed to wish to do more than simply go through the motions of writing, directing, and acting in a major motion picture, apparently simply to fill a slot in Summit Entertainment’s release schedule. The problems probably begin with Worthington; despite Bell’s game try at affecting a New York accent, Worthington doesn’t even attempt to cover up his Australian brogue, leading one to wonder if he was the result of some Crocodile Dundee-ish cop exchange program. He has a rudimentary amount of leading-man charisma that he trades on here, but it’s not enough to allow an audience to really give a shit about his plight; we’re told that he’s an innocent man, and are expected to care about that simply because he’s in front of our face for an hour and a half. Cassidy is less an actual character than some lazy approximation of a first draft of one.
As such, his interplay with suicide negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) is largely lifeless. Mercer is likewise given a vague sketch of a background, haunted by her failure to prevent another NYPD officer from jumping off a bridge the month previous. Does she eventually come to believe that Cassidy might actually be innocent the crime he was charged with? Of course she does, which leads her into an amazingly clichéd fight against the corrupt cops who framed Cassidy and now wish him to be silenced at all costs, etc, etc. It’s a shame to see otherwise talented actors like Anthony Mackie and Deadwood’s Titus Welliver thrown into the meat grinder that is this film's script; they’re given little to do but act as chess pieces on the board of writer Pablo F. Fenjves, also attempting his first feature film.
Fenjves has apparently seen many a heist movie, but his attempt at creating one of his own has an oddly robotic, inorganic feel; Bell and Rodriguez are assigned the unpleasant task of acting as the film’s comic relief, exchanging one-liners and sexual innuendos while a member of their family is perched on the edge of death across the street. The heist itself trades on the ideas of far better films, riffing on the Mission Impossible series more often than not, even going so far as to borrow MI3’s “take a picture in front of a security camera, print the image out, and tape it in front of said camera” gag wholesale. Leth at least has some fun with the idea of non-professional criminals attempting a heist; whenever the pair attempt to rappel anywhere via cables, for instance, they more often than not wind up dangling head over heels. Still, nothing that’s attempted here hasn’t been done before and better, even if Leth’s obsessive focus on showcasing Rodriguez’ impressive cleavage eventually becomes a welcome distraction from the humdrum goings-on of the rest of the film.
Man On A Ledge is at least competently made, with a few of the wisecracks managing to achieve a laugh and one or two of the action beats coming close to giving its audience a thrill. Saying a film is competent is a far cry from recommending that you actually pay money to see it, however, and it’s unlikely that anyone who spends 11 dollars on Man On A Ledge will consider it a wise investment afterwards. This is a film that attempts to proclaim its overwhelming averageness at every turn; it succeeds, but that success is a dubious one at best.