“I can see his leg shaking from here”
I’ll give TV movie scribe Pablo F. Fenjves light applause for hooking me during the first two thirds, but the real kudos go to documentarian Asger Leth and his ability to make even the implausibly contrived and impossibly far-fetched finale not take away from the entertaining little gem his fiction debut Man on a Ledge surprisingly ends up being. It’s convenient, convoluted, and pretty hard to stomach in terms of realism, but something about the acting and sporadic bits of humor kept me engrossed. Whether or not our jumper Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is guilty, innocent, or insane becomes unnecessary in our desire to watch him achieve victory. Like the homeless bystander yelling “Attica!” at the top of his lungs, we all love the underdog and have no excuse not to root for him in a Hollywood crime thriller really only asking us for two things—suspend your disbelief and have fun.
One of my favorite aspects of the movie is its depiction of the fickle hoard called New Yorkers. All it takes is a scream of “I’m innocent” to turn onlookers heckling a troubled man threatening to plummet twenty plus stories to his death into cheering for his amnesty. It’s the perfect circus to provide cover for the very intricate, “Prison Break”-like plan to clear Cassidy’s name by stealing the Monarch Diamond courtesy of a sympathetic brother who believes his felon of a sibling is innocent. We don’t care how Joey (Jamie Bell) or his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) spent a year preparing, though, just that they are ready to perform. Hell, we don’t even need to know why Nick is being framed. All that concerns viewers is being able to watch explosions, enjoy the police getting duped, and catch a glimpse of Rodriguez’s finely shaped body squeeze into a skin-tight one-piece.
This is what Man on a Ledge is about—the periphery pleasures. The whole film is ultimately one giant deflection from looking deep enough to care all the important details are ignored or glossed over. We’re bombarded with characters like Lydia Mercer’s (Elizabeth Banks) unpopular negotiator who watched her last victim jump from his bridge, Mike Ackerman’s (Anthony Mackie) best friend of the accused suspiciously going lone wolf, David Englander’s (Ed Harris) millionaire real estate mogul who appears out of nowhere, and a cavalcade of familiar faces like Kyra Sedgwick, Titus Welliver, and Edward Burns confusing us from realizing their roles are muddying the water to distract from focusing on the people of true importance. Everything has been meticulously planned and it uses a theatre-going public’s want to check brains at the door to its advantage.
Personally, I’m okay with this type of thinking every once in a while. Give me a popcorn movie with enough intrigue to grab interest and the right amount of craziness to make me smile, laugh, and wait for the next big surprise. Fast-paced throughout after a quieter introduction to Cassidy arriving at the Roosevelt Hotel, the brief flashback to a month earlier attempts to set-up a ruse the trailer has already ruined. The exposition is understandable since it allows us to be half a leg up on the cops who find him out the window using an alias, but it’s not long before the world discovers his true identity and the dynamic between negotiator and victim changes to one of faith in a kindred soul while the pieces fall into place to reveal everyone else’s role. Credit Banks and Worthington’s checked emotions and palpable fear for letting the transition appear believable.
Although they are the main focal point, however, I was most captivated by the supporting relationships. I love the back and forth between Banks and police force coworkers Burns and Welliver as they never let her forget the failure keeping her up nights. There’s a nice layer of biting sarcasm to cut through their true feeling of distrust and the fact she’s handpicked by Cassidy to stay by his side forces her to take control and regain lost confidence. Little moments like this trio’s interactions within the fraternity of law enforcement really shine amongst the more broad strokes and the same goes for Bell and Rodriguez’s humanity while partaking in criminal activity way above their pay grade. Their proficiency at breaking and entering is just way too high, but the bickering and second-guessing helps ground them in some semblance of reality.
You could actually say Man on a Ledge works as far as you can believe Joey and Angie’s part of plot. It’s through them that you must suspend your cognitive functions the most and I thought they were entertaining enough to do so. This is crucial because once you roll your eyes at them the rest falls apart quick. We can only rely on an emaciated Harris’s ferocity and Welliver’s rough and tumble cop so much before the plot shoves begs for attention. Thankfully Banks and Worthington are up to task at making a tried and true trick of disseminating exposition at a well-timed pace in isolation work against the action occurring while they stall. The bad guys may be obvious and the ending a foregone conclusion, but if you mirror William Sadler‘s hotel valet’s sunny disposition you might be able to look past the problems and enjoy the brief reprieve from real life offered.
 SAM WORTHINGTON and ELIZABETH BANKS star in MAN ON A LEDGE. Photo by Myles Aronowitz © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
 JAMIE BELL stars in MAN ON A LEDGE. Photo by Myles Aronowitz © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
 ED HARRIS stars in MAN ON A LEDGE. Photo by Myles Aronowitz © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.