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Friday
Jan272012

Man on a Ledge

Man on a Ledge is a misleading title. Unlike Snakes on a Plane or Zombie Strippers, whose titles reflected everything they had to offer, Man on a Ledge tries to be more. It starts, sure enough, with a man on a ledge, but its story isn’t confined to that man or that location. Its seemingly succinct title is just a glimpse of what the movie has to offer. Unfortunately, what it offers doesn’t amount to much more than the occasional mild thrill. It’s not the worst movie to ever come out in the dump month of January, but it’s a good example of why this time of year is the worst for moviegoers. Even movies with interesting premises and plenty of potential fail to live up to quality standards.

The film stars as Sam Worthington as Nick Cassidy, the titular man on the ledge. He has just escaped from prison after being convicted of stealing a $40 million diamond from a real estate mogul named David Englander, played by Ed Harris, a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Now he wants to clear his name, but to do so would mean finding the diamond in Englander’s possession and showing to the world that he was set up. So as he talks with a police psychologist, played by Elizabeth Banks, about his intentions, a massive heist run by Nick’s brother and his brother’s girlfriend, played by Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez, begins only a building over.

That’s a great premise if there ever was one. Sure, the trailers ruined it beforehand, but if you walked blindly into Man on a Ledge, it would look like a simple tale of a desperate man contemplating the unthinkable. The story twist would throw you for a loop, but that twist’s inherent intrigue never pans out into anything meaningful. Your interest grows weary as the story loses traction, becoming even more outlandish as each minute ticks by. For instance, after you learn that it took a year to plan the heist, you can’t help but role your eyes over the team’s approach, which involves such ridiculousness as taking a picture of a room with a digital camera and then dangling the picture in front of a security camera, slyly fooling the guard who just so happened to look away as they hung it up. Such a trite course of action surely couldn’t have taken more than a few minutes to figure out, much less a year.

Though small in nature, quibbles like that eventually lead the viewer to a realization. How did the team know the layout of the building anyway, including the vents? How did they know what vault they would be up against once inside? How did they know anything at all? You’re supposed to just go with the fact that they planned for a year and already looked into everything, but I wasn’t buying it. The writing leaves too many questions unanswered and uses plot conveniences to get the characters where they need to be. Nothing is explained and the final twist, which will remain unspoiled, is a real head slapper. This thing needed at least an extra hour at its front to help lead into what you eventually see.

The thing is that if the heist was fun, these questions wouldn’t matter so much and would be easy to look past, but it’s relatively small in scale (at least compared to other heist movies) and the cutesy, flirty dialogue between the two pulling off the heist is beyond annoying. The over-the-top and comically insane heist pulled off in last year’s Tower Heist is more interesting (and believable) than this.

The men behind Nick’s set up are obvious from the get-go, Banks is miscast (in perhaps the worst actress-to-profession casting since Tara Reid as an anthropologist in Uwe Boll’s misfire, Alone in the Dark) and Worthington’s eventual transition into an action hero cross between James Bond and Spider-Man is sudden and insane, but it’s not all bad. Ed Harris is great as the evil mogul, which gives at least a little bit of a reason to care for the good guys to prevail and a couple of late movie stunts are fun to watch, but there comes a time when you want it to get to the point. The problem is that there is no point and its thrills are insubstantial, certainly not good enough to carry a 102 minute movie. It simply doesn’t have enough to sustain itself through what eventually becomes another lame, predictable action flop. Like I said earlier, Man on a Ledge may not be the worst movie to ever come out in January, but that in no way means it’s good.

Man on a Ledge receives 2/5