At the outset of “Man on a Ledge,” Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) threatens to jump twenty stories off the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan (Madison and 45th). A crowd of kooky New Yorkers predictably gathers below, many of them naturally urging him to go for it.
But is this man really suicidal? Or does he have something else in mind? Perhaps a secret plan?
It is a simple premise that basically leads to nothing of interest in Asger Leth’s film. Leth is unable to generate tension, and the audience winds up being stuck on that ledge with Cassidy, a bit bored, for a bit too long.
The only question of import is what the movie’s endgame will be. Will there be some decent twists and turns, or will the movie cave in on itself?
It is the second, less desirable option this time, although the final act’s outright nuttiness—featuring an unintentionally comical shootout—is energetic and entertaining enough.
A bad cop sums up the spirit to which this movie aspires but rarely reaches: “It always ends the same: blood, snot, and tears.”
Cassidy, we learn through some ponderously paced flashbacks, is a New York cop who was unjustly imprisoned at the hands of this movie’s big evildoer, David Englander (Ed Harris), a one-dimensional 1 percenter who throws expensive items against the wall when he does not get his way. This is Harris’s most limited part in ages.
After a ridiculous escape-from-incarceration sequence, Cassidy’s supposed suicide attempt is actually a diversion for his younger brother (Jamie Bell) to break into Englander’s massive safe and secure evidence of his big brother’s innocence.
Much that goes down in “Man on a Ledge” will leave discerning audiences scratching their heads. What to make, for instance, of this Cassidy, who is hardly afraid to crash his vehicle into an oncoming train but becomes a breathless scaredy cat the moment he sets foot on that ledge? How is it that all kinds of criminal activity can take place uninterrupted on Manhattan rooftops in broad daylight in plain sight of everyone working and living in the many higher-up buildings?
Worthington, with a lot more hair than he had in “Avatar” (2009), fails to make us care one whit whether his character jumps, falls, or survives. The actor only shows a slim range of emotions and sports an unsteady, disconcerting New York/Australian accent.
Pablo F. Fenjves’s screenplay is filled with many flat and silly lines. Elizabeth Banks, who overdoes her part as a police negotiator, gets a good share of the worst ones, telling Cassidy at one point, “Trust me, this staring-off-into-the-abyss stuff—it’s no good.”
Later, she observes matter-of-factly, “This isn’t a normal suicide.” She also encourages Cassidy—as if he might never have heard these words before—that “things will get better.”
Unoriginal cinematography by Paul Cameron, including some of those passé aerial shots looking down on Manhattan edifices, and a hackneyed score by Henry Jackman are further signs that this film is shooting for “serviceable” and not much more.
Nick Cassidy – Sam Worthington
Lydia Mercer – Elizabeth Banks
Joey Cassidy – Jamie Bell
Mike Ackerman – Anthony Mackie
Jack Dougherty – Ed Burns
Suzie Morales – Kyra Sedgwick
David Englander – Ed Harris
A Summit Entertainment release.
Directed by Asger Leth.
Written by Pablo F. Fenjves.
Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian.
Cinematography, Paul Cameron.
Editing, Kevin Stitt.
Original Music, Henry Jackman.
Running time: 103 minutes.