Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: "Man on a Ledge"

So there he is, that man out here on the ledge. From the very first moments we glimpse him, we know that the hero in "Man on a Ledge" does not intend to jump off the 21st floor of a swanky Manhattan hotel. He's up to something, that man, whose name turns out to be Nick Cassidy, and is played by Sam Worthington. That something involves making everyone think he's suicidal, including the cops trying to talk him down and the people on the street, who would also like him to come down -- but quicker.

This is not some deep-think drama or character study. "Man on a Ledge" wants to be a fun and zippy thriller, part heist flick and part revenge catharsis. And it mostly carries out its intentions adeptly, under the direction of Asger Leth, a novice to feature films, and screenwriter Pablo F. Fenjves, a television veteran.

Despite the static location of its protagonist, the story is constantly on the move. "Man" is a movie that is plot, plot and more plot. Eventually Nick gets to go places -- otherwise things would get really dull, since the ledge routine is merely a diversion. The real action is across the street, where Nick's brother Joey (Jamie Bell) is breaking into a rich guy's vault with the help of his girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez). The girlfriend milks every existing cliché for the fiery cinematic Latina, including the liberal use of the word "puta," and creates a few new ones.

At first the break-in appears to be a straight high-tech infiltration/robbery, with people dangling from ropes to avoid laser alarms, faking out sophisticated security cameras with simple ruses, etc. We've seen it all before, and other than a few clever twists, it doesn't hold our attention long.

But there's obviously more going on here. The guy they're robbing, David Englander, is an evil real estate tycoon played by Ed Harris, who exploits his steely blue eyes and creased visage with expert, if overly familiar, flair. Nick is looking to get back at Englander for something, but what?

It's the job of Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) to find out. A police negotiator who recently had a high-profile failure on the job, she's specifically requested by Nick to be the one talking to him. Her semi-willing partner is played by Edward Burns, in standard tough-New Yorker mode.

Nick and Lydia establish a connection, but she senses that she's being played. First her mission is merely to learn his real name and identity. Later, it will be to decide who to trust.

Rounding out the cast are Titus Welliver as the officer in command of the scene, Anthony Mackie as a cop who's an old friend of Nick's, William Sadler as a curiously omnipresent hotel worker and Kyra Sedgwick as a TV reporter with an incongruous surname and accent.

I didn't dislike "Man on a Ledge," but its moving parts all fit together a little too neatly and predictably for me to really enjoy.

2.5 stars out of four

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