Top critical review
3 of 3 people found this helpful
A Great Premise And Good Actors Struggle With Clunky Dialogue, Unbelievable Characters, And Overly Convenient Plotting
on September 21, 2011
Writer/director Matthew Chapman had a terrific idea for a complex movie dealing with faith and sacrifice set in a neo-noir framework. I absolutely love the idea of "The Ledge" and its intriguing premise earns it some merit. But if I'm being honest, the themes that Chapman wants to introduce and wrestle with are largely undermined by a screenplay that presents some of the most awkward dialogue and contrived settings that you're likely to encounter in a serious picture with this much talent involved. Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler, Terrence Howard and Charlie Hunnam are all actors that I have connected with in the past. It's easy to see the attraction that this type of movie would have held for them. But aside from one great scene near the end for Wilson, the rest of the cast flounders with the clunky script and overwrought ideology. The film bludgeons you with its many debates on religious notions by forcing characters together that would never expend so much effort in the real world attempting to communicate. Sadly, it's a near fatal flaw.
The plot of "The Ledge" is exceedingly strong. Hunnam starts the movie by climbing out onto a ledge (no big surprise considering the title) with the intent to jump. Howard, as a cop having a bad day, is on the scene to talk him down--but instead is the recipient of a story of why the potential suicide may be more than it seems. Hunnam relates a tale that involves adultery and religious debate with his new neighbors (Wilson and Tyler). Both have had a challenging past, but they've settled into a life as fundamentalist Christians. Their friendship with the atheist Hunnam is an opportunity for basic debate. And while it's always nice to have a movie that is unafraid to tackle religious themes overtly, there is a clumsiness to these scenes that can be difficult to handle. Neither party is particularly likable, have nothing in common, would never develop a relationship more than to say "hi" in the hallway--but the movie consistently puts them together for meaningful dialogue. There is nothing natural about the flow of the film.
I'm not going to discuss more of the plot so as not to give anything away--but it is these central conflicts that eventually drive Hunnam to the aforementioned ledge. The film could easily have been turned into a nifty little thriller with more realistic character development. Hunnam's character is blatantly unprofessional and inappropriate at work. A good actor, here he is stranded in a thoroughly unappealing and unbelievable character. Seriously, his seduction scenes with Tyler made me alternately laugh and cringe with some of the silliest dialogue I've encountered this year. Tyler, for her part, plays one emotion. It's hard to see what is supposed to be so alluring about this expressionless character. Howard is undeveloped. His plot thread is conveniently tacked on to heighten the drama and for him to be the recipient of the piece's deep philosophical lessons. Wilson, one of our most underrated actors, is turned into a zealot--but has one scene that sticks out in a refreshingly riveting way.
It was, ultimately, the characters that left me cold as well as the heavy handed message. For example, Christopher Gorham is on hand as Hunnam's homosexual Jewish roommate. Why? As a plot device, of course, so Wilson can scorn homosexuals and Hunnam can challenge religion (he can quote from the Talmud, naturally). At one point, Gorham is bathing the apartment in blessed Temple water. Really? It's overdone and obvious. With a bit of subtlety, Chapman might have scored a real triumph. I loved the idea, I like the actors--but (for me) little about the movie worked. Good ambition, but lacking in the execution. KGHarris, 9/11.