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Man on a Ledge [US Import] [Blu-ray]  [Region A]
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A well-cast thriller with style to burn, Man on a Ledge can't quite decide if it wants to be a hairpin Hitchcockian exercise in suspense, or a more linear action movie. The script by Pablo F. Fenjves promisingly wastes little time in getting the two nouns of the title together, with the opening scene depicting a mysterious man (Sam Worthington) checking into a swank New York hotel, ordering an expensive meal, and then stepping out of his window for a stroll. But why the choice of this building, in particular? Or his specific request for a boozily disgraced negotiator (Elizabeth Banks) to talk him back inside? And what's with the clumsy couple attempting to break into the office across the street? All will be revealed, rather unusually quickly. To his credit, director Asger Leth (a former documentarian) does manage to capture some of the city-as-an-organic-entity vibe that powered such seminal NY films as Dog Day Afternoon and The Taking of Pelham 123. Unfortunately, his gritty sense of style ultimately can't do much with the increasingly straightforward plot, which telegraphs its curves way in advance. Still, if the narrative shortcomings keep the film from being top-notch escapism, the actors compensate for a lot, beginning with the palpable chemistry between Worthington and Banks and continuing with a wonder of a supporting cast, including Ed Burns as a disgruntled cop, The Hurt Locker's exceptional Anthony Mackie as an investigating officer with ties to the main character, and especially Ed Harris, as a gazillionaire real estate tycoon who takes visible joy in crushing the spirits of his underlings. If you've ever wondered what Scrooge McDuck would look like in human form, here you go. --Andrew Wright --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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Welcome to the scenario that opens "Man on a Ledge," which is literally about a man sitting on a ledge to try to prove his innocence. The idea isn't half bad, but the casting of the eternally blank-faced Sam Worthington pretty much deflates the intensity -- the rest of the cast is quite good, but when the plot hinges around a person sitting on a ledge, they better be good.
Two years ago, Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) was accused of stealing a massive diamond from wealthy businessman David Englander (Ed Harris), and was sentenced to 25 years. When he's allowed a day out for his father's funeral, Nick escapes from his guards, picks up a cache of money and other supplies, and checks into the hotel. See above description of what happens.
Expecting a suicidal jumper, a massive crowd forms below, while the police try to figure out who Cassidy is and why he's up there. He refuses to talk to anyone except depressed negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks). But unknown to the cops, Nick's younger brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and Joey's girlfriend Angie (Génesis Rodríguez) are infiltrating a nearby building, where they plan to prove his innocence -- by stealing the missing diamond.
"Man on a Ledge" is another one of those movies that might have been simply sublime... if Alfred Hitchcock weren't dead. It has an intriguing idea, and a challenge that most Hollywood movies won't set up for themselves -- what if the hero of the piece barely ever moved from the ledge he's standing on, holding himself hostage in front of all of New York City?
So how does this movie fail? That would be Sam Worthington. This man has the acting ability of a tortoise who just smoked a giant bag of weed -- he never registers any emotions like fear, anxiety, rage or depression. Actually, he barely registers any emotions, period. It's like watching a lifelike robot trying to imitate humans, and failing.
A role like this one needs Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner, (de-aged) Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell or Matt Damon, all of whom could pull off a disgraced cop going to desperate lengths to restore his life. But with Worthington up on the ledge, all feeling of tension is just sucked out of the central storyline. He's not even sweating!
Director Asger Leth actually does a lot better when he's focusing on anything other than the titular man on a ledge -- the infiltration into the vault is a genuinely tense sequence, with some clever twists along the way. However, I found myself a little baffled by the depiction of the people watching Cassidy. For some reason, the crowd of rubberneckers suddenly turns Cassidy into a hero for the common man... even though they don't really know much about what's going on. It feels awkward and is never really explained.
The rest of the actors are pretty decent -- Jamie Bell and Elizabeth Bell give excellent smaller performances, especially since Bell is playing a woman haunted by a failure to talk down a suicidal cop. Ed Harris is something of a cardboard villain though, and Kyra Sedgwick is utterly wasted as an annoying TV reporter who... reports.
The man on a ledge is the weakest point in "Man on a Ledge" -- which is a shame, because a strong, talented actor in that role could have made this a wonderfully memorable movie. As it is, it just reminds me of what happens when tortoises get stoned.
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