Title: Man on a Ledge
Director: Asger Leth
Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Genesis Rodriguez, Anthony Mackie, Edward Burns, Ed Harris, Titus Welliver
It’s a decent idea; Man on a Ledge. Now what can we do with this?
Best guess is that this discussion went on all the way through shooting, because after taking in the 102 minutes, the only thing creative and truly engaging is in fact, the man on the ledge.
Sam Worthington makes the most of his predominantly statuesque role. The guy is standing on a twenty-to-thirty story ledge of a plush hotel in New York City. A crowd (spectators and first-response teams) form around him and the entire opening act is treated like a real jumper situation. Of course, it’s not that simple. When Worthington asks specifically for an officer, played by Elizabeth Banks, there is clearly more going on here. And this act also ushers in the supporting duo of Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez. So the intrigue of what is Worthington’s ultimate agenda lingers around until about the halfway point. Once revealed, the audience will hold on tight hoping they (filmmakers) can sell this.
Sorry folks, it’s just too scant to buy into. Not that you won’t know what is going on (which is part of the problem), but you just won’t care enough after Worthington, or more specifically, the script, has played their hand. Despite solid performances all around – including Ed Harris and Anthony Mackie jumping in – the script is underdeveloped and unable to sell what the characters are enacting. For instance, Bell and Rodriguez have fun chemistry together but their role in the story is laughable. There’s no way one can believe they are pulling off the things they are asked to do on screen. Perhaps with some more background this would have worked, yet there’s none. And this also leads to some of their intended comedic moments to be met with silence from an audience. Also showing up are Edward Burns and Kyra Sedgwick in roles that are negligible. Basically, they fail to use any of their talents so why bother even having them?
The one thing that gets developed is the aspects of what can occur with a possible jumper scenario. If there’s any cleverness in the script it is how they execute certain things around Worthington’s actions. Again, the concept, and how the story is flowing through Worthington’s perspective is quasi-catchy & original. Sadly though, that’s about all the mental stimulation one will have. As for physical stimulation, thank you Genesis Rodriguez.
Still can’t say enough about Sam Worthington here (obviously) as he firmly tries to pull this flick to something suspenseful. He slowly has the ability to make you care about him. The one flaw that the director needed to address was how his character telegraphs his every move when talking to Elizabeth Banks. Moments like this are a buzz-kill for audiences expecting a thriller type emotion. And though everything unfolding around him is painfully obvious and recycled, the guy can literally talk an audience into at least hearing him out. Issue that arises is that you have to see other things happening outside of his stationery set piece (the ledge). When the camera isn’t bringing the audience into his environment, it showcases the actions of the police – working on containing the situation, and Bell and Rodriguez – doing their respective parts. And while the cinematography remains strong throughout, the story and screenplay can’t fully rise up to the levels of the titular idea.
Overall, Man on a Ledge had a thought, but couldn’t get evolve past the brainstorming stage. Nice idea (and try), decent performances – though vague, yet it probably would have been more exciting if the film just depicted a true jumper situation.
By Joe Belcastro – Member of the Florida Film Critics Circle