by Mel Valentin
The month of January brings with it an overabundance of studio-released mediocrities, cast-offs, and other time-wasters. A better example of that dictum won't or can't be found than "Man on a Ledge," an action-thriller centered on, you guessed it, a man on a ledge, not just any man on a ledge presumably considering suicide (like most men on ledges or, to avoid charges of sexism, women on ledges too), but a man on a ledge with a covert agenda. Unfortunately, all it takes is one run-through of the TV ads and the trailers to know exactly the nature of the man on a ledge's agenda: exoneration from the proverbial crime he didn't commit, the theft, we're told by an excitable detective, of a massive diamond worth $40 million from David Englander (Ed Harris, emaciated), a mega-wealthy, ultra-powerful real-estate developer modeled on the redoubtable Donald Trump, a hissable villain if there ever was one (Trump, maybe, the film's fictional Trump-like character, definitely).With the man on the ledge's future behind bars assured for the next twenty-three years (out of a twenty-five year stretch), the man on the ledge, Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington, still struggling with an American accent), does what any ex-cop, current felon who watched The Fugitive on a perpetual loop would do: he uses his father's funeral to escape custody and head back to the city, as in New York City, to exact revenge, retribution, and the aforementioned exoneration. The man on the ledge is also a man with a plan. He's corralled his kid brother, Joey (Jamie Bell), and Joey's significant other, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), to break into Englander's super-secret, super-secure vault in Englander's high-rise office (situated within Cassidy's sightline) and steal the diamond while Cassidy creates a diversion by becoming the man on a ledge, thus proving the man on a ledge's claims of innocence and Englander's guilt.
"Modest action-thriller delivers on its modest action-thriller promises."
In short order, New York's finest is on the case. The man on a ledge, however, refuses to speak to Jack Dougherty (Edward Burns), the first detective to arrive on the scene. Instead, he asks for Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), a boozy detective with a tarnished reputation (her last attempt to talk down a suicidal rookie cop from a bridge failed). While Mercer tries to talk the man on the ledge into becoming the man in a hotel room again by gaining his trust and so on and so forth. While the media trains its vulture-like gaze on the man on a ledge, personified by a ratings, obsessed reporter, Suzie Morales (Kyra Sedgwick, a non-Latina in a Latina role), and the police run through their procedures, up to and including forcibly bringing the man on a ledge in by dropping a SWAT member or two next to him, the man on a ledge's plan proceeds, sometimes smoothly, sometimes not so smoothly (the better to goose audience tension and create a modicum of suspense).
Pablo F. Fenjves’ script adds one absurd plot twist to another ridiculous plot turn, throwing logic and common sense, already in short supply in Man on a Ledge's fictional universe, out the hotel window well before the man on a ledge makes the decision to jump or not to jump. Fenjves’ script telegraphs character motivations and agendas (because everyone has an agenda) early on, making the big character reveals (i.e., the not-so-secret bad guys) clear as daylight on New York City afternoon in the summer the second or moment the character, usually, if not always, played by a recognizable actor, makes his first appearance (hint: it's always a "he" and never a "she"). Comeuppance (for the villains), catharsis (for the heroes and the audience), and closure (again for the heroes and the audience) predictably follow.Whatever its faults (and it has many), "Man on a Ledge" succeeds, if not admirably, then respectably, in delivering on its promise of a tightly wound suspense-thriller. First-time feature director Asger Leth ("Ghosts of Cité Soleil") proves more than capable of handling [i]Man on Ledge's[/i] visual demands. Leth keeps the camera in constant motion, in and out of the hotel or during a "Mission: Impossible"-inspired vault heist, often favoring high-angle shots of the man on a ledge sweating out his time. When camera moves and angles aren't enough, Leth does what any first-time feature director would do: he resorts to the obligatory quick cuts and parallel editing, smoothly, effectively alternating between the man on a ledge's act and the vault heist. That may not sound like much to discerning moviegoers, but for less discerning entertainment seekers, it'll be more than enough to pass the time.
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originally posted: 01/28/12 06:43:54