By Niall McArdle
Man on a Ledge is a fairly enjoyable cops and robbers action film that stretches plausibility even as it dutifully ticks all the boxes of the genre: high concept premise; cynical cops; washed-up cop in need of redemption; beautiful woman pulling off daring high-tech heist; callous villain.
An escaped con, Nick Cassidy (pudgy Sam Worthington) stands on a ledge high above Manhattan in an effort to prove his innocence. He claims he was framed for the theft of a valuable diamond from a nasty Trump-like real-estate tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris in a performance you’ve seen him give a thousand times). Worthington will only speak to hostage negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks). You should know that this is sort of film where a washed-up female cop wakes up after a hard night and still manages to look like Elizabeth Banks.
The man on a ledge becomes a side-show, as crowds gather to see if he’ll jump, and a hair-do news reporter (Kyra Sedgwick) reports the whole farce (the crowd starts to cheer on the jumper and the film tries to be Dog Day Afternoon), while the rest of the police (Ed Burns, Titus Welliver, Anthony Mackie – all good actors, all wasted) do their best to talk him down or take him down (lots of shots of cops screaming into walkie-talkies).
As it turns out – SPOILER – he’s really only on the ledge to distract everyone from the fact that his kid brother (Jamie Bell, all ears) is going to break in to the tycoon’s vault across the street, and prove that the diamond was never stolen at all. Bell is aided by his beautiful girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez). Rodriguez is the sort of beautiful latina movie heroine who speaks flawess English except when she’s angry – then she curses en rapido espanol. And because she has to crawl through air-ducts, she of course has to strip down to her unmentionables before she can put on a skin-tight cat-burglar’s outfit.
Man on a Ledge has a few decent twists and turns along the way before it falls into a predictable third act. It has forgettable dialogue (except for one joke that Burns gets to deadpan: “Jesus, Mercer, you’ve got a giant set of balls. They’re gonna hang you by them, but they’re huge.”), and the Law of the Economy of Characters dictates who the real bad guys are.
I don’t buy Banks as a hard-bitten female cop who’s had to fight her corner amid brutish men, like Sedgwick has done so brilliantly in The Closer. I couldn’t help thinking that the film would have been far more interesting if Banks and Sedgwick had swapped roles.
I know that there are some who regard Worthington as a manly hearthrob, but I think he’s an uninteresting actor with a bland face. What makes him watchable here, though, is the fact that the filmmakers really did film high above the streets: when you see Worthington step out on to the ledge, the fear on his face is authentic as he’s standing 250 feet above the city.
Verdict: Three half-naked latinas out of five.