Thursday, June 28, 2012

Man On A Ledge Might Be Simple, But It Is Engaging!

The Good: Decent story, Good acting
The Bad: Light on character development, Light on DVD bonus features
The Basics: Man On A Ledge is an improbable thriller that has more to it than the trailers revealed!

Every once in a while, I enjoy a real “flight of fantasy” movie. I’m not talking about the type of movie that happens in a mythical setting or involves creatures that do not exist in real life. No, I’m talking about a movie set in the very real world where events progress in an entirely unrealistic way to give us a moment’s escape from the cold, harsh reality of our world. Last night, I discovered that with Man On A Ledge.

Man On A Ledge was a movie I actually actively avoided when it was in the theaters. The previews seemed far too revealing to me (and, objectively, they show far too much of the movie to have left me actually surprised at any point in Man On A Ledge) and that sort of preview is a real pet peeve of mine. So, when I could watch it more casually now that it is out on DVD, I took the opportunity to watch Man On A Ledge and I was pleasantly surprised. Man On A Ledge has a little bit more going on than the trailers let on and despite the utterly fantastic nature of the chain of events, Man On A Ledge is actually an enjoyable, diverting film.

After having his last meal at a hotel in New York City, Nick Cassidy steps out onto a ledge. Moments later, police arrive and he has a single request for them, bring negotiator Lydia Mercer or he will jump. Mercer comes and begins to talk Cassidy down, while he withholds from her who he actually is. A month prior, Nick Cassidy was in prison and his final appeal was denied, so his twenty-five year sentence is going to be upheld. When his father dies, he is granted a furlough to attend the funeral and there he steals the gun from the guard and escapes.

Now, as Nick Cassidy stands out on the hotel ledge, he is acting as a distraction for his brother Joey and Joey’s girlfriend, Angie. Joey and Angie are breaking into the diamond exchange owned by David Englander across the street. Englander, Mercer learns when she identifies Nick, is the man who got Nick locked away, supposedly for stealing a massive diamond, chopping it up and selling it off. As Nick tries to keep the media focus on him, he pleads with Mercer to believe his story, a story that reveals a web of corrupt cops working as Englander’s private security. With Englander and his police closing in on Nick and his team, Mercer follows the clues to learn the truth about Nick’s conviction and Englander’s machinations.

Man On A Ledge is very plot-focused. This is a thriller that focuses very closely on a chain of events, delivering facts as necessary to create a very plot-driven story. Nick Cassidy does not grow or change or develop over the course of the story and Lydia Mercer does not really develop either. Instead, this is intended as a gritty reality-type situation where Nick uses the last tools he has to try to expose David Englander’s deceptions. The film hinges a lot on characters who share a lot of information about events that the viewer is never privy to. In other words, many of the characters are actually motivated by Internal Affairs investigations over events not at all related to Nick Cassidy being on the ledge. And they come up as is convenient.

Given the lack of character development, almost the entire film is about plot; what is happening now, why is it happening, where is the movie going . . . Man On A Ledge does not try to be something deep and smart or clever outside itself. This is a film that is trying simply to tell a story and it is engaging. Well before the end, the viewer becomes invested in Nick Cassidy. Early on in the film it is established that there are really only two ways that Man On A Ledge can end: he comes in voluntarily or he does not. Whether or not Nick Cassidy lives or dies truly becomes interesting to the viewer because of the extreme efforts so many people are going through to save his life. Long before Man On A Ledge ends, the viewer wants to know which way it will go.

I attribute the success of Man On A Ledge to the cast. Sam Worthington is good as Nick Cassidy, easily playing a plausible convict. He has enough screen presence to make it obvious almost from the first moment he steps out onto the ledge that he is not distraught and not actually intending to jump. Sure, the previews all ruined that aspect of the movie, but Worthington sells it now that there is no hype for the movie. Anthony Mackie plays off Worthington very well and it seems entirely plausible in the ease of their performances that their characters could have been partners in the past.

Man On A Ledge might tip its hand by casting the always-amazing William Sadler to the apparently minor role of the valet, but it makes up for it with the perfect casting of Edward Burns, Ed Harris and Titus Welliver. Elizabeth Banks is fine as Lydia Mercer, but having just watched her by going through all of the bonus features on Zack And Miri Make A Porno (reviewed here), it seems like director Asger Leth cast her for the role, but didn’t make her stretch in any way. Banks is good, Mercer is not one of her more memorable roles and it is not at all an unfamiliar performance from her. In other words, she is well-cast, but not acting excessively well in Man On A Ledge.

Ironically, then, it is Elizabeth Banks who delivers the only decent DVD bonus feature on Man On A Ledge. Man On A Ledge comes with exceptionally few bonus features. After a single preview, the main menu comes up and there is a featurette (“The Ledge”) and a second feature where Elizabeth Banks provides commentary for the theatrical trailer to Man On A Ledge. Her commentary consists mostly of gushing over Sam Worthington’s body and admitting that she would tap Ed Harris, with jokes about Genesis Roderiguez not wearing much. She is very funny and she takes the somewhat ridiculous assignment for what it is and delivers an entertaining two minutes that does not quite justify the expense of the DVD.

Ultimately, Man On A Ledge is diverting and worth watching, even if it is not in any fashion, enduringly great.

For other works featuring Sam Worthington, check out my reviews of:
Wrath Of The Titans
Clash Of The Titans
Terminator: Salvation


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all my movie reviews!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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