'Man on a Ledge' Review: Thriller Falls Flat on Its Face
“Today is the day that everything changes one way or another."
That sentiment leads escaped convict Nick (Sam Worthington) onto the ledge of the 21st floor of a New York hotel in the new thriller, "Man on a Ledge." The former inmate is trying to prove his innocence in front of the police and a national media watching his every move. The concept sounds like “The Fugitive” on a skyscraper. but the film is so mundane and lifeless Dr. Richard Kimble himself might have asked for an autopsy.
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Worthington - whose acting skills leave much to be desired - plays a former cop serving a 25-year sentence as the story begins. Through an elaborate escape plan, though, Nick runs free hoping to prove that he's not the jewel thief that he was convicted of being.
To prove that he's not a crook, he climbs onto the titular ledge and sets an elaborate plan into place. A few surprises ensue that change the trajectory of the story, but the plot mostly focuses on the relationship between Nick and Lydia (Elizabeth Banks), the guilt-ridden negotiator who tries to talk Nick back to safety. In addition to Worthington and Banks, the film stars Ed Harris as the millionaire investor whose diamond Nick is accused of stealing and Jamie Bell as Nick’s self-conscious brother.
The plot may sound interesting, but writer Pablo Fenjves - who wrote O.J Simpson’s controversial book, "If I Did It” - fills it with a forgettable lead, detestable supporting characters and dreadful dialogue.
The most annoying characters are the onlookers watching the unlikeable Nick stand on the ledge. “They want you to jump. That’s why they’re here,” Lydia says to Nick, and by the crowd's calls for him to take a flying leap, she's right. The crowd is so disgusting that if given the chance, it feels like these onlookers would push Nick off the ledge themselves.
Despite the crowd's belligerence, some members of this cantankerous crew change their minds once they discover Nick's plight to prove his innocence. In one unmistakably funny sequence, Nick spots an onlooker's sign that reads “We are with you” and another one that simply reads “Single?” The cartoonish quality of this bi-polar bunch makes them feel less like real people and more like a prop Fenjves uses to add flair to an unremarkable story.
But the cynicism doesn‘t end there. The film also includes a classless reporter named Suzie Morales (Kyra Sedgwick). Her sole purpose in the story is to act like an obnoxious diva and spout clichés. “Time is running out for this escaped criminal,” she says on air, as if no one understood that a man on a ledge can’t stay there forever.
If the uneven script and the useless characters aren't enough to turn you off, the story exists in another world. Although the plot mainly stays planted in real time, Harris’ character jumps from one building to another in the span of a few seconds. At one point, he’s informed about how bad traffic is downtown where the jumper is. And then a bit later, he’s across the street from the jumper with no mention of his transportation. In another scene, a major explosion takes place across the street from Nick, but no one in the dimwitted crowd notices it. They’re too fixated on a jumper twenty-one stories up that they don’t notice an explosion happening right behind them.
I’m not sure what world this story exists in but it’s certainly not the planet we live on.
“Sometimes you can just feel them give up,”Lydia tells Nick about her past experiences with jumpers. That sentiment can also be applied to viewers who wandered into this film expecting action and excitement.
“Man on a Ledge” defies reason, logic and explanation. It can't defy gravity though, and this movie proves it by falling flatly on its face.