by Tim Ross
For many movie patrons, Hollywood – where stars are outlandish characters who cavort endlessly in the spotlight – probably seems a bit like the wild West. In reality, however, those who make films are generally a conservative lot. Scriptwriters follow long-established patterns and directors often make sure their films feature well-known hooks such as explosions, death-defying stunts and plenty of implied sauciness.
“Man on a Ledge” follows much of the known Hollywood formula, but this crime thriller departs from the standard fare in a few fun and successful ways. Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington, “Avatar”) is an ex-cop serving time for a robbery he swears he didn’t commit. Two years prior, he was accused of stealing a $40 million diamond from a real estate magnate (Ed Harris), but with the help of his brother, Joey (Jamie Bell), Nick escapes from prison.
The escape needs a willing suspension of disbelief and it certainly doesn’t stray far from prison breakouts you’ve seen before. Nor is it a new idea to follow the fortunes of a man or woman wrongly accused of a crime who then sets out to solve the crime nobody else could solve. What happens next is nice twist, however, and sets up the rest of the film.
Nick rents a ritzy hotel room in Manhattan, eats a lavish meal and then steps out onto a ledge to apparently kill himself. When police arrive on the scene, Nick asks for a particular detective, Lydia (Elizabeth Banks), who believes she’s there to talk Nick off the ledge. Instead, he slowly reveals to her small clues to an elaborate plot he’s launched to clear his name and take down his enemy.
The movie splits into a psychological thriller between Nick and Lydia on the ledge and a crime thriller as his brother Joey and Joey’s girlfriend, Angie, in a wonderful performance by Genesis Rodriguez, work to clear Nick’s name. Both aspects of the film are taut with suspense and packed with anticipation, near misses and occasional twists.
Long-sought evidence emerges in record time and resolutions are compressed as only Hollywood can do, but the film is still a fun ride without gratuitous sex, major explosions or an overload of special effects. In fact, “Man on a Ledge” harkens back to some of the grittier crime thrillers of the past such as the Gene Hackman’s “The French Connection,” Clint Eastwood’s “The Gauntlet” or Kevin Costner’s “No Way Out.” I’m not suggesting Worthington is in the same league as any of these veteran actors just yet, but he does bring honesty to the characters he portrays and it serves him well here.
The cast is solid, although Harris doesn’t add much as the evil rich guy and Kyra Sedgwick is wasted as the standard annoying reporter who will do anything to get the story.
“Man on a Ledge” has the fast-paced rush of a summer popcorn thriller with occasional quiet moments of drama. It won’t earn any Oscar nominations, but it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat and it earns the right to be seen on the big screen.
Grade: 2 1/2 out of 4
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language
Cast: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell
Studio: Summit Entertainment