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Don't Fall for Man on a Ledge

Don't Fall for <i>Man on a Ledge</i>

DVD Release Date: May 29, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: January 27, 2012
Rating: PG-13 (for violence and brief strong language)
Genre: Action, Thriller
Run Time: 102 min.
Director: Asger Leth
Actors: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Edward Burns, Anthony Mackie, Jamie Bell, Genesis Rodriguez, Kyra Sedgwick

Why do you go to the movies? To have a good time? To escape? To see a movie that will help you forget the worries of the day while you get lost in its story? Maybe you are looking for a good popcorn movie to balance all those serious Oscar contenders out there.

If so, skip Man on a Ledge and instead see Haywire, which excels as escapist entertainment where Ledge fails.

Sam Worthington (Avatar) stars as Nick Cassidy, a former cop serving a 25-year sentence, although he insists he’s innocent. After he breaks free of his guards while on a supervised outing, he heads to a New York City hotel and steps out on the ledge, hundreds of feet above ground.

There he waits, as crowds gather below and the police arrive. He bonds with Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks, Our Idiot Brother), a negotiator who has her own checkered past: She’s haunted by an earlier on-the-job failure.

Nick wants vindication and exoneration, and he’s willing to stand on the ledge and talk to Lydia for much of the film’s running time to achieve it. Slowly we learn that his bizarre stunt is part of a scheme designed to even the score with a shady businessman (Ed Harris, disappointingly one-dimensional) from Nick’s past. Nick’s brother (Jamie Bell, The Adventures of Tintin) and the brother’s girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) are in on the plan, working toward a big reveal that will expose the truth and allow Nick to live as a free man. (The couple’s efforts provide an excuse to cut away from the on-the-ledge banter between Nick and Lydia, as do the machinations of a TV reporter [Kyra Sedgwick, The Game Plan] reporting from the scene.)

Despite taking place high above the city’s streets, Man on a Ledge never becomes as taut as it needs to be. We never believe Nick is in real danger. Worthington is more compelling here than he was in The Debt, or even in Avatar, but Banks has difficulty pulling off the jaded-cop routine. She can play evil (The Uninvited) and squeaky clean (as Laura Bush in W.), but gritty blue-collar types aren’t her thing.

Faring best is Edward Burns (27 Dresses) as the cynical Jack Dougherty, trying and failing to supervise Lydia’s efforts to bring Nick in off the ledge. Anthony Mackie and William Sadler show up as familiar faces in smaller roles, but the movie never engages any deep emotions—no fear, no excitement and not much sympathy for anyone involved.

Ledge is helmed by a documentarian, Asger Leth (Ghosts of Cite Soleil), and written by Pablo Fenjves, whose previous credits are all TV movies. Say what you will about a flashy action director like Tony Scott (Unstoppable, Déjà Vu), but Man on a Ledge would have benefited from Scott’s overheated presentation of standard action material, giving some urgency to its storytelling and some heat to its visual presentation.

Leth’s TV-movie past is useful in writing about Man on a Ledge, if only to indicate where this film is best seen: At home, over the air, at no charge. And only if you don’t have chores to do, or a nap to take.

If you really need to get out to a movie this weekend, and if Haywire’s not your speed, I hear there are some good Oscar-nominated movies now playing.


  • Language/Profanity: “Jesus Christ”; “go-dam-”; “a-s”; “s-it”; “son of a b-tch”; the “f” word; “douche”; crude reference to male anatomy; sexual banter between a boyfriend and girlfriend.
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: A woman grabs a champagne bottle and asks a man if he’s drunk during the day, and he says he isn’t; cigarette smoking; reference to cocaine; a disdainful reference to another man’s involvement with drugs.
  • Sex/Nudity: Kiss on the cheek; Lydia shown in a tight-fitting night shirt; cleavage; woman shown in her underwear, with most of her backside exposed; some cursing in Spanish; a woman is shown in her bra.
  • Violence/Crime: Prisoners fight; gun pointed at guards; gunfire; car chase; explosion; breaking and entering; men are shot; another fight scene.
  • Religion/Morals: Nick says he’s had previous suicidal thoughts; a funeral message speaks of faith in God and faith in one’s self; Lydia wears a cross pendant on her necklace.

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