Most helpful critical review
40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Perilous Plan to Clear One's Name
on April 2, 2012
"Man on a Ledge" is a movie in which a man contemplates jumping to his death. Who is he? Why is this his chosen method of suicide? And why is he so insistent on dealing with a particular police negotiator?
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is an escaped, convicted diamond thief with an elaborate plan to clear his name. After checking into an upper-floor room at Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel, he orders a hefty meal, then exits the window and positions himself on a ledge. People below notice him and soon the police are called in. When a cop attempts to talk him in, Nick asks to speak with a different negotiator, Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks).
Mercer has been ostracized by her peers recently because she lost a previous jumper. Her self-assurance has been tarnished, and she is perplexed as to why this potential suicide has requested her. The cops dust for fingerprints to identify the would-be jumper, but the room is clean. So Nick's identity remains unknown to them for quite some time.
Ms. Banks never convinces us that she has risen to the rank of detective and been entrusted to such sensitive work as negotiator. She has fashion model looks, and doesn't have the command the role requires. A better casting choice would have been someone like Frances McDormand, Debra Monk, or Stockard Channing -- older women who could convey a harder edge than Ms. Banks.
Much of the plot involves a scheme Nick has engineered, and we gradually see it unfold. It is convoluted, depends on split-second timing, and is the kind of plan that could work only in a screenwriter's imagination.
Worthington ("Avatar") is adequate as the enigmatic man on the ledge, though he fails to bring any distinction to the role. His Nick is determined to call the shots, and it soon becomes obvious that his threat to jump is masking a far more clandestine plan.
The supporting cast is impressive. Jamie Bell plays Nick's brother, Joey; Anthony Mackie is Nick's former co-worker; stone-faced Titus Welliver plays the cop in charge of the operation to get Nick off the ledge; and Edward Burns plays Det. Dougherty, the negotiator Lydia replaces.
As a thriller, "Man on a Ledge" works reasonably well. A large part of the movie involves an intricate caper that occurs as Nick teeters 25 floors above the street. The mystery unfolds as the police, Nick's family, a wealthy businessman (Ed Harris), dirty cops, and Nick himself converge in the film's denouement.
Rated PG-13, "Man on a Ledge" is not a bad movie, just a so-so one. There's a sense that we've seen the film before and the screenwriter has cobbled together scenes from previous movies. For a theatrical film, it has a decidedly TV-movie feel, although the crowd scenes and New York filming are impressive. Asger Leth is a competent director, not an inspired one. He has a good sense of pace and the movie never bogs down.