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"MAN ON A LEDGE"
(2012) (Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama/Thriller: A police psychologist tries to talk an escaped convict off the ledge of the 21st floor where he's determined to prove his innocence.
PLOT:
Nick Cassidy (SAM WORTHINGTON) is a convict who manages to escape custody during a family funeral and later ends up on the 21st floor of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. He wants to prove his innocence and tells detective Jack Dougherty (EDWARD BURNS) that he'll jump if police psychologist Lydia Mercer (ELIZABETH BANKS) isn't brought to the scene. Being off duty and having recently lost a jumper, Lydia is reluctant to respond, but does so to the scene where Detective Nathan Marcus (TITUS WELLIVER) is in charge and TV reporter Suzie Morales (KYRA SEDGWICK) is down below covering the story and the growing crowd of onlookers.

Initially unbeknownst to them -- and due to him using a fake name and wiping his prints clean from the hotel room -- Nick is a former NYPD cop who was convicted and imprisoned in Sing Sing for stealing a $40 million diamond from real estate mogul David Englander (ED HARRIS) whose building is right across the street. Nick's former beat partner, Mike Ackerman (ANTHONY MACKIE), says he's trying to help Nick. But little does he or anyone else know that Nick's brother Joey (JAMIE BELL) and that man's girlfriend, Angie (GENESIS RODRIGUEZ), are really the ones working to prove Nick's innocence.

With time running out and the S.W.A.T. team preparing to take action against Nick once he's identified, the escaped con does what he can -- up on that high ledge -- to give Joey and Angie enough time to accomplish their task, all while Lydia tries to figure out if Nick is telling her the truth or not.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
In the dramatic thriller "Man on a Ledge," Ed Harris' real estate developer character emphatically states that when something is taken away from you, the thing you want and have to do is take it back from them. He's referring to a gargantuan diamond allegedly stolen from him by Nick Cassidy, a cop played by Sam Worthington, a reported $40 million heist that has landed the latter in jail.

Cassidy swears he's innocent and thus has placed himself as the titular person on the titular space, desirous of getting his life and freedom back that he knows the Trump wannabe stole from him. Thus, his plan is to steal away the attention of the masses so that some other stealing can occur. With all of this stealing going down, the people who should feel they've been robbed are anyone who has plunked down hard-earned dollars hoping and/or expecting something original.

And then there are the folks behind the "Mission: Impossible" films who should feel the most violated. For what starts as if it's going to be a "Dog Day Afternoon" sort of righteous stand flick (yes, someone even starts chanting "Attica! Attica!" -- which only drives home that point) featuring our ledge man standing firm until his innocence is confirmed, unexpectedly turns into an Ethan Hunt and crew type movie complete with an elaborate and high-tech break-in and heist, the kind of which only appears in the movies.

There's no overwhelming problem with that, at least in theory, but when it stretches credibility thinner than the 18-inch ledge on which our hero stands, you quickly realized the film's in trouble. After all, the characters in play here aren't highly trained government spies or agents, nor are they even part of Danny Ocean's casino infiltrating squad.

Instead, they're just a cop, his brother of undetermined vocation, and that man's fiery girlfriend. Their credentials? The latter two have practiced the planned heist for the past year (while the cop has been behind bars, somehow cooking up and orchestrating the endeavor). All of which naturally makes them experts at breaking into a Fort Knox worthy high-rise, disabling elaborate security measures and outwitting everyone, with every potential monkey wrench planned out to a T.

I'll admit that with the recent wild success of the latest real "Mission: Impossible" pic and all of the coverage of the gilded one-percent vs. the rest of us mentality that's swept the nation (or at least the media), the film could prove popular as an escapist meets message sort of flick (although the somewhat similarly structured "Tower Heist" didn't hit the box office heights many predicted).

And if one can completely tap into full-fledged suspension of disbelief (that includes buying into Elizabeth Banks playing a cop who deals with would-be jumpers or that Sam Worthington still isn't a recognizable star despite the box office success of many of his films), the film might provide enough of a diversionary escape that one won't mind what's offered.

I just wish that filmmakers -- in this case, director Asger Leth and screenwriter Pablo F. Fenjves -- put some more effort into bridging the logic gaps, filling the credibility holes and/or simply applying greater amounts of originality to their work. And it certainly wouldn't hurt if they made us care about the characters. Most everyone enjoys rooting for an innocent person to get comeuppance on those who've wronged them, but that's conspicuously absent from Worthington's character beyond the default settings of him being the victim and Harris playing the evil one-percenter (and why the terrific character actor signed on to that part is a mystery).

We're also supposed to feel bad -- at least in concept -- for Banks' character, what with her having lost another jumper in the recent past. But that doesn't occur either (we're told about the pain, but don't feel it). And next to nothing is known about the various characters played by the likes of Edward Burns (as the cop who initially doesn't respect her); Jamie Bell (as Worthington's brother); Genesis Rodriguez (as his fiery Latina girlfriend whose only apparent character requirement was the need to look good inexplicably stripping down to her scanty undies during the heist); Anthony Mackie (as the ledge cop's former partner with a -- gasp -- surprise agenda); and Kyra Sedgwick (as the TV reporter character that could have been played by someone less notable, considering how little the character is used).

In the end (or actually long before it), many viewers may join the chorus of bystanders down on the street and yell for the protagonist to jump (into a safety bag, of course, we're not all sadists), before the plot awkwardly segues into a different sort of genre pic. Since we're not allowed to engage with any of the characters, we're simply left to ponder why we're sitting through a "Mission: Impossible" wannabe while the real -- and far superior -- thing is still playing next door. "Man on a Ledge" isn't quite bad enough to make you want to head out your own window, but it only manages a 4 out of 10 rating.




Reviewed January 3, 2012 / Posted January 27, 2012


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