To look critically at a movie that was so unabashedly and shamelessly made to pander to any and all who watched it would be to do you a disservice, but Man on a Ledge doesn’t appear to be the typical heist movie, though it doesn’t take the breath away in the usually dazzling display of caper-ly haste and luster like one either.
It’s also very difficult to title a movie and center its entailing plot around a definitive set-piece such as the ledge of a building, the precipice which many see as the definitive end for any who fall from it, without diluting its sense of presence as a central element to the action or exaggerating the importance of its centripetal nature. Think Snakes on a Plane.
And if the omnipresence of an architecturally commanding figure like the ledge of a building has anything to offer to a movie—which (surprisingly) managed to avoid the outrageous—its a concise warning to all who see it of the very literal interpretation director Asgar Leth has made. But in the Turning Genres On Their Heads Dept., Leth has done something rather risky for a Summit Entertainment picture (The Twilight Saga, Salt and the stand-out Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker). Man on a Ledge is not the implicit story of a man contemplating suicide, rather Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is the confidence man playing his deceptively simple game of mock self-destruction whilst brother Joey Cassidy (Jamie Bell) and the princesa-in-the-leather-bodysuit Angie (Génesis Rodríguez) attempt to snatch a coveted diamond from David Englander (Ed Harris)—a titan of a businessman. The upshot of it all is the motivation: proving one man’s innocence.
The effort was appreciated—much like a precocious, finger-painting young child trying his hand at a Rembrandt—and the critical grasp of the film around the mind’s attention took hold very quickly but dissipated almost as quickly with the introduction of our titular man on a ledge, whose very first “step into the void” proved less cathartic than one might have hoped. The humor was solid and unexpected, although almost always out of place.
There was, though, an underscored feeling of tonal ambiguity with this and many other movies released in the past few years. By that I mean a feeling that producers have dedicated more time to mashing tropes of various genres to birth messy, colossal hybrids than to finding solid scripts. Man on a Ledge began as the drama of a wronged prison inmate tailgated by a Jason Bourne-like segue into an Ocean’s Eleven, plot-thickening stew. If that weren’t enough, Bell (who was supposed to be grief-ridden after his father’s death) and Rodríguez’s on-screen romance hinted at elements of an awkward romantic-comedy. As it happens, a film that hardly gets one genre right is scarcely able to serve up a buffet of many—what’s five times zero, class? 5/10
Man on a Ledge opens on Jan. 27 and is rated PG-13.
Kyle William Dunn / Editor in Chief