With Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Edward Burns, Ed Harris. Written by Pablo F. Fenjves. Directed by Asger Leth. Rated PG-13 (for violence and brief strong language). 102 minutes.
There’s no defending MAN ON A LEDGE in terms of logic or depth of character. You either buy into it or you don’t. If you do, it’s a nifty thriller with lots of twists and turns. If you don’t, it’s just a contrived story.
Nick Cassidy (SamWorthington) is an ex-cop who has busted out of prison and is now standing on the ledge of a Manhattan hotel threatening to jump. The only person he’ll talk to is Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), a police official who specializes in such situations. Unfortunately, the last time she tried to talk to a suicidal person, he jumped. There’s much more to the plot than this, but since the movie is all plot, one doesn’t want to give too much away.
For instance, Nick’s brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his hot girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are part of Nick’s plan, although they’re not in the hotel. They’re in an office building owned by David Englander (Ed Harris), a Trump-like developer who is the reason Nick was sent to prison. There’s a TV reporter (Kyra Sedgwick with a phony Latina accent) whose involvement borders on interference. There are other cops (Edward Burns, Titus Welliver) whose actions indicate they may have other agendas. As the action unfolds, you hope everything will be explained. It is, but if you’re hoping some of it isn’t utterly preposterous, you may be hoping for too much.
As this becomes clear, it is revealed that Nick has an agenda himself, and he’s more interested in clearing his name than jumping, but as the action proceeds, his options become limited.
What makes the film work, if you’re willing to play along, is the cast. Where the recent “Contraband” made us wonder why we should care about its lowlife characters, many of the characters here win us over. As things play out in an unexpected but satisfying manner, we want the good guys to succeed, no matter how unorthodox their methods.
It takes a while for Worthington’s character to develop enough for us to catch on, but Banks is immediately effective as the proverbial woman in a man’s world, having to prove herself every time she goes out. It helps that the first cop on the scene is portrayed by Edward Burns, whose everyman demeanor lets us know that he’s okay. Ed Harris provides an interesting contrast, as he is oily and grandiose as the developer, clearly having fun playing the cartoonish villain.
Perhaps that’s the secret of “Man On A Ledge.” It’s not a great film, but it is entertaining pulp fiction in large part because the people involved seem to be having fun making it and want us to have a good time too. You may end up thinking the story is ridiculous, but as new plot twists emerge even after the film’s climax, you won’t have been bored. For a January release that isn’t an Oscar contender from the previous year, that’s saying a lot.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.