Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review: Man on a Ledge

The trailers for Man on a Ledge really did nothing for me.  The supporting cast looked excellent on paper with Eddie Burns, Elizabeth Banks, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, and Jamie Bell, but Sam Worthington as the lead dulled my interest.  I know he has a big following post-Avatar, but this is the same person who was the lead in Clash of the Titans, The Debt, and Terminator Salvation.  So in my mind, a Sam Worthington movie without James Cameron’s name splashed somewhere across the one-sheet is more likely to be a miss than a hit.  Unfortunately, in the case of Man on a Ledge, I am right.

The plot of the movie focuses on Worthington’s Nick Cassidy – a cop who has been sent to jail for stealing a diamond from Ed Harris’ David Englander.  One jailbreak and a couple of twists and turns later, we find Worthington on the ledge of a high-rise verbally jousting with Elizabeth Banks’ Lydia Mercer – a down-on-her-luck police negotiator.  If by now you are envisioning the movie The Negotiator starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey then you are on the right track.  Only it’s a lot less hip.

So here is the problem.  When the majority of a film’s scenes are shots of a man standing on a ledge engaging in dialogue, the action on the periphery has to make up for the protagonist’s relative inertia.  Sadly, the schemes, machinations, and physical jockeying amongst the stellar supporting cast drop the ball.  The plot is too generic, the process too thin, and the payoff too predictable.  To remedy this, it feels like director Asger Leth and writer Pablo F. Fenjves try to inject a bit of sexual tension between Worthington and Banks to no avail.  Their chemistry feels forced.

I feel that movies such as these, where the plot is not particularly original and the twists not inspired, can get rescued by strong character acting.   On paper, Man on a Ledge has the pieces in place to pull off something that at the very least is entertaining.  Unfortunately, too much of the film relies on Worthington, who seems to be a one trick pony as an actor – surly.  The dour demeanor and low rumbling vocals can carry you a long way as an antagonist, but not so much as the lead.  Sure Ed Harris is solid as the heavy and Anthony Mackie, Jamie Bell, Elizabeth Banks, and Eddie Burns turn in solid workman-like contributions, but at the end of the day it’s all for naught because Worthington - burdened with script limitations - is not up to the task of elevating the movie.

I don’t want to be overly harsh in my write up of this movie.  It has a handful of solid tension-filled moments and a couple of nice action scenes that utilize the physical space of the film well.  Should you happen to see the film, you will find entertainment value.  I just would not suggest you plan your social calendar around it.  It’s a bottom-of-the-queue Netflix movie that will one day in the future help you pass two hours of your time.  However, I would guess that soon after you put the red Netflix envelope back into your mailbox for its return trip, you may never think about it again. 

Standout Performance: Ed Harris.  It is by no means his best performance, but Harris is a pro and knows how to hits all the right notes to deliver a credible performance.


Post a Comment