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Man on a Ledge – Film Review

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Man on a Ledge - Elizabeth Banks and Sam Worthington
Officer Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) tries convincing disgraced ex-cop Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) to abandon his precarious perch © 2012 Summit Entertainment

The film begins with an intriguing premise, but soon becomes so preposterous it turns into unintentional parody. Still, this thoroughly ridiculous action-thriller does have a certain cheesy charm, even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Sam Worthington stars as Nick Cassidy, a police officer wrongly convicted of stealing a $40 million diamond from crooked New York real estate developer David Englander (Ed Harris). We learn this info, and the details of how Nick escaped from prison, in flashbacks. That’s because the film opens with him checking into a Manhattan hotel, having a nice room-service meal and calmly stepping out onto a 21st-story ledge.

While cops including sloppy-foxy negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) try talking him down, Nick’s brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his unbelievably sexy girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are breaking into a nearby skyscraper, looking for evidence that will clear Nick’s name. Bitter Lydia, who needs to prove herself after losing a jumper the month before, gradually realizes that Nick may have good reason to be paranoid about some of his former fellow officers.

Man on a Ledge - Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez
Joey Cassidy (Jamie Bell) and girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are amateur safecrackers on an unlikely mission © 2012 Summit Entertainment

The only thing wrong with the plot is, well, everything. The most overwhelmingly obvious flaw is that there is no good reason for Nick to go out on the ledge. He is there to draw attention away from what is happening on the other building’s rooftop, where Joey and Angie want to escape detection. But the downside for Nick of being seen and identified more than outweighs any potential benefit. Joining his brother to pull off the break-in without all of the intentional media-hogging would have been infinitely more intelligent.

The Mission-Impossible-style caper itself is head-shakingly unbelievable. We’re supposed to accept the premise that brother Joey and his centerfold-gorgeous girlfriend Angie – neither of whom presumably has any prior super-criminal experience – are able to breach Fort Knox-level security in the high-tech high-rise. They use explosives, zip-lines and a massive safecracking drill that they somehow know exactly where to position. And yes, there’s even a “cut the red wire”/”they’re all red” dilemma.

Things tilt even further into the laughably absurd when huge-busted Angie gratuitously strips down to a pistachio-pink bra and panties set so she can squeeze into a scuba-style bodysuit. That’s so she won’t set off a vault’s heat sensors, which is comically ironic, considering alluring Angie’s smoking-hot body.

Anthony Mackie is Nick’s former partner Mike Ackerman, who may have more than a friendly interest in getting Nick off that ledge. Ed Burns is Jack Dougherty, the obligatory insultingly sexist cop who comes to appreciate much-maligned Lydia once he realizes that she has, as he puts it, balls.

Director Asger Leth doesn’t keep the silliness of Pablo F. Fenjves’ screenplay from outweighing the suspense, Worthington sometimes sounds more Aussie than American and the movie’s climax is groaningly goofy. What starts out looking like it could have been a terse film noir becomes a bloated and cheerfully boneheaded spectacle.

Still, if Man on a Ledge were on a ledge, it would be hard not to yell “jump.”

[Rating: 2 stars]

Man on a Ledge is released in theaters on Friday January 27, 2012. The film is released in the UK on February 3, 2012 and in Australia on February 2, 2012.