You might expect more tension if the ads are any indication from this thriller in this cross between Phone Booth and The Negotiator as well as The Italian Job, The Fugitive and even The Adjustment Bureau (based on the presence of a costar and its deceptive packaging).
Even with a capable cast led by Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Edward Burns, and Ed Harris, Man on a Ledge teeters too much from defying the kind of entertainment that comes from studio releases early in a new year.
Still, Asger Leth's disposable product has some, vertiginously crowd pleasing, comical elements to it, attached to the notorious Occupy Wall Street movement.
Worthington (of late from decent fare like The Debt and maybe best remembered from Avatar) is convicted, on the lam ex-cop Nick Cassidy for his pilfering from Harris's David Englander of the latter's beloved Monarch Diamond. Englander is having his staff preparing for a new sweet property opening, but Cassidy (avowing his innocence of the crime) has other plans. The increasingly shifting, fantastical storyline has Cassidy stepping on to the ledge of Englander's Manhattan high-rise edifice after checking in as Mr. Walker and enjoying a last meal of lobster and (unfinished) fries.
The audience (who'll find the payoff rewarding in spite of an anticlimactic conclusion and is one step ahead of everyone except Nick) can't deny that the plot developments have a contrived nature to them as Nick has to keep onlookers, cops (with a force led by Burns in a welcome return to mainstream cinema with some of his deadpan sarcasm, and the media at bay for a while.
Flashbacks (which may remind some of the superior 1993 Harrison Ford action, a remake of the David Janssen small-screen series) reveal Nick's escape and subsequent new identity at his father's funeral (where his brother played by Bell of Jane Eyre) was subdued. His brother is part of the diversion across the street with girlfriend, an alluring Genesis Rodriquez, to get the Monarch back and get Nick off the hook. The plan seems to go without a hitch for a while with Nick getting hard-living negotiating cop Lydia Mercer (a good Banks and Massachusetts native) to keep him on the ledge. Better than her last case which led to suicide off of the Brooklyn Bridge as she begins to realize Nick isn't the typical example of someone she tries to talk down and he might have an ulterior motive.
What is better than expected or than it has any right to be despite its more measured handling of "real-time" comes from the sense of humor felt throughout the cliches, especially where it concerns law enforcement and its subdivisions, notably Internal Affairs. The acting isn't really that important to the overall viewing experience, victimized by its intensity to make the formula work through implausibilities and discrepancies. Anthony Mackie of The Hurt Locker and another aforementioned dystopian picture starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt supplies a kind of smooth ambivalence as more are in on Nick's scheme (he even has a man on the street below as more comic relief) and of course have a past that can pop up in today's instantaneous "CSI" world.
Yet, this clamorous, adrenaline-fueled climax, picture still manages to adequately break its fall even if it's tough for Worthington (hard to keep his intonations consistent) to maintain interest with the physical constraints of the role (hardly making Nick a desperate figure), as Banks does her best in keeping a discursive flow. Providing more of a humorous side are Bell and Rodriquez with a little tension to their tyro takers, although Harris figuratively and literally is emaciated by the kind of suave smarminess evinced by Englander. In the case of more mediocre and less taut for your buck, Kyra Sedgwick of the popular small-screen series The Closer adds droll energy to a nosy television reporter in a "Man" not having to go out on a ledge to send-up pop culture and show off a sense of humor.
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