A great title and a good trailer gave me high hopes for “Man on a Ledge.” It’s a simple enough formula. Take Sam Worthington as the desperate escaped convict, put him on the precarious ledge of a building, add Elizabeth Banks as the haunted negotiator trying to talk him down, and then present it all to us as a taut and clever heist film… Sign me up!
Unfortunately, Man on a Ledge is all premise and no plot. The film is preposterous and silly in equal measure.
Here’s the skinny: Sam Worthington is a former cop who got screwed over by real estate tycoon David Englander (played by Ed Harris). Worthington escapes from jail and climbs out on the ledge of a building, but what the crowd gathering below doesn’t know is that Worthington is actually the lynchpin in an elaborate heist to steal a diamond and get even with Ed Harris.
Right off the bat, the film never manages to justify its own concept. There must be a good reason for the man on a ledge to be on the ledge in “Man on a Ledge.” Except there isn’t. We keep waiting for the big reveal that will explain the brilliance of this plan, but it never comes. The film does try – Worthington does a couple of little tricks while on the ledge. He acts like he might jump to distract the crowd, he throws money at the crowd to slow down the cops, he … actually, I think those two are the only examples.
The posters say, “The Ultimate Deception Needs The Ultimate Distraction.” But what’s interesting about a distraction? Is that all there is to it? Unfortunately, yes, that’s all there is.
Elizabeth Banks is the negotiator tasked with talking Worthington down. For no discernable reason, she comes to completely trust Worthington and she believes so completely in his innocence that she’ll put her career – and her life – on the line for him. She smirks her way through the entire film and I was never once able to take her seriously.
Meanwhile, Worthington’s brother and his brother’s girlfriend perpetrate the diamond theft. The film loses most of its points during these scenes. The thieves are a couple of nitwits and their plan is all baling wire and bubble gum. This is a movie where they beat a state-of-the-art security system by crawling through an air vent and cutting a single wire.
The film builds to a completely ludicrous final act where Worthington manages to dodge a dozen highly trained SWAT officers by running in and out of hotel rooms. Worthington’s final defeat of Ed Harris is so ridiculous that I can’t believe anyone in the film (let alone in the theater) would buy it. It’s one of those single-brush-stroke endings that is an insult to the entire audience that just paid to see it.
Then there’s the coda, which his all smiles and hugs and beer toasts. It’s so silly that it defies belief. You probably won’t see it, though, because you’ll be heading to the box office to demand your money back.