The film is a smorgasbord of ideas and genres, but it is all watered down and filled with one note characters. Take the film’s villain played by Ed Harris, there is no doubt from the moment he appears on screen that this is a bad man. Nasty personality, slicked back greasy hair, and driven by nothing but greed the character is basically a cartoon. Luckily the character isn’t around all that much, but unfortunately it is a waste of such a talented actor like Ed Harris. But our villain isn’t the only character with little depth or surprise as our hero, Sam Worthington, is almost just as thin. A cop who claims to be wrongfully accused for a crime that sent him to prison is attempting to prove his innocence, but any suspense surrounding his claim is erased once you meet the aforementioned character played by Harris. From here, Worthington is asked to simply move the plot along and most of the action is regulated to the seemingly separate movie taking place caddy corner to all of the man on a ledge drama.
Worthington’s brother in the film, played by Jamie Bell (Tintin!), is on a jewel heist mission with his girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) that is somehow wrapped up in the ledge drama. The problem here is that this aspect of the film seems way out of place from everything else and it asks us to suspend belief at every turn. First, they set up the security of this vault to be ridiculously impenetrable only to be foiled so easily by a pair of amateur criminals who have been training for a whole year. Both of the characters involved are also portrayed as dim, one note stereotypes and the filmmakers are never able to build any suspense surrounding them. Even more egregious, Genesis Rodriguez is overtly over sexualized for nothing more than exploitation. Nothing against Rodriguez, she is an attractive woman, but this is what I am talking about when I say studio interference. I can totally see some executive saying, we need more sex in this movie, show off that one’s boobs and get her in her underwear. If I were Rodriguez’s character, I don’t think I would have my boobs hanging out on a mission like this. Rodriguez looks great, but there is no point to any of the it other than sex sells. Worse, all sexual attention is going to overshadow Rodriguez’s tough and endearing performance that was one of the few highlights of the film.
The cops in the film are also as stereotypical as their criminal counterparts and Elizabeth Banks is the only actor to escape that quagmire. Sure she has an almost over the top accent, but her character is the only one with any compelling depth and Banks makes the most of it. She isn’t able to elevate the role to anything spectacular, I don’t think anyone really could have, but Banks’ likability goes a long way in making her the only character I really cared about.
The film could have done a lot for itself by making things a bit more interesting visually (how many times can we shoot this guy on a ledge the same way?) and holding its cards a bit closer to the chest would have gone a long way. The film waves giant flags projecting where it is heading and it tries to throw you off by taking you through unbelievable situations; it doesn’t work. Also failing to resonate is a plot surrounding a Kyra Sedgwick that seems to be trying to say something about media and how grotesque it is, or how sick we are for rooting this guy to jump, I don’t know; and oh yeah, it’s mostly played for laughs.
The film’s first two acts are rather dull, predictable, and lack any sort of suspense, but the film’s final act was able to sweep me up into the proceedings. I did care enough to want to know what happened in the end and the film deserves credit for at least doing that.
Also holding the film back is that our protagonist is set up as an invincible hero to a certain extent and cashes in on that set up before it’s all said and done. The movie could have been a good one, thankfully it wasn’t an awful one, but if you caught this on cable a few years down the line I imagine it would suck more than a few of you in; and that would be ok.
All that said Man on a Ledge is a predictable and pandering film that hides its surprises to no one. A strong cast is wasted, everything seems so cookie cutter and studio manipulated, and even though the third act rouses up a hint of suspense it kills it with more than one ridiculous moment in the finale. Man on a Ledge sets out to be a crowd pleaser and it might succeed at that for some viewers, I just hope you ask for more out of your entertainment in the future because this is a lesser effort.
Man on a Ledge is a D+