On paper, MAN ON A LEDGE sounds intriguing enough as a knockout thriller with an exciting mix of PHONE BOOTH meets THE NEGOTIATOR with a dash of DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE. Unfortunately, the execution is a different thing altogether. What could have been a thriller filled with claustrophobic tension and edge-of-your-seat is sadly undermined by first-time feature director Asger Leth's lackluster direction and Pablo F. Fenjves's heavy-handed screenplay.
However, the movie opens promisingly as we follow Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) checks into the Rossevelt Hotel in downtown Manhattan one morning. He orders an expensive last meal, writing a suicide note, and ready to take action by climbing out the window. True to the title, he steps on the ledge and he's ready to jump in no time. It doesn't take long before the onlookers below spotted him from above and more people starts to gather around in the streets. The NYPD is quick to arrive at the scene and a TV reporter by the name of Suzie Morales (Kyra Sedgwick) is already there to report the breaking news nationwide. Apparently Nick specifically wanted alcoholic detective Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) to come over or else he'll jump off the ledge.
In the subsequent flashbacks, we learn that Nick is actually an ex-cop who was facing tough time coping with the 25-year prison sentence for a crime he didn't commit -- a theft of a multimillion-dollar diamond owned by the wealthy David Englander (Ed Harris). He believes he was being framed and he's determined to clear his name at all cost. When he learns his father passed away from his ex-partner and best friend, Mike Ackerman (Anthony Mackie), he takes his chance to escape from the funeral. A chase ensues, and he ends up surviving a car accident after a near-death collision by an oncoming train.
As Lydia tries her best to talk him down, little does she know Nick is actually stalling a great amount of time so his younger brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and Joey's sexy girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) able to break into David Englander's office building in attempt to steal the diamond inside the high-tech vault that have put Nick into prison at the first place.
For a while there, especially during the first half, director Asger Leth does pull off some worthy thrills and scenes involving Nick stands on the ledge above 21st floor of Roosevelt Hotel is certainly vertigo-inducing. But he fails to sustain interest as the movie goes by. Another problem here is Pablo F. Fenjves's inconsistent and highly preposterous screenplay. Anybody expecting a smart payoff will be dumbstruck by how improbable and dubious the whole thing plays out here once the big picture is made loud and clear. Meanwhile, the heist alone is particularly a letdown since there is little sense of intrigue -- I mean, watching two inexperienced safecrackers (Jamie Bell, Genesis Rodriguez) who spends most of the time wisecracking and bantering against each other, is really hard to take the movie seriously.
The cast are average at best -- Sam Worthington is mostly bland in his lackluster performance crippled with a noticeably unconvincing American accent. Elizabeth Banks is sadly miscast as an alcoholic detective trying to make things right. She doesn't look convincing at all playing a tortured figure, since she spends most of the time oozing radiant smile and sweet confidence -- a definite sign of miscalculated expression. Jamie Bell goes through the blind motion as Joey, while Genesis Rodriguez is particularly cast as a mere sex object. How else can you explain that the filmmakers are more preferable to showcase her body rather than her acting talent? In one unnecessary scene aimed for the sake of cheap titillation, she is seen stripping to her undies and revealed her pushup bra at the same time during a heist. Later she puts on her skintight black leather catsuit, just to slide herself into the airshaft. Lastly, Ed Harris hams it up in his awfully cartoonish performance as an evil real estate tycoon.
Finalizing the movie is the far-fetched ending that breaks all the leaps of logic imaginable. Oh, there are some much-needed action scene towards the climactic finale, albeit in the silly way. To top that off, the movie suspends further disbelief by witnessing Nick willing to run over the ledge and jumps off the building for the sake to catch up with David Englander below the street (No, I kid you not) -- and I was particularly dumbfounded when I watched that scene. Then there's a preposterous coda involving a celebration of freedom Nick has finally gets and a marriage proposal between Joey and Angie in a crowded bar. Such scene is definitely questionable. Despite their quest to prove Nick's innocence, I'm surprised that neither Nick nor Joey and Angie are being charged for breaking the law especially after all the stunts they have pulled off.
MAN ON A LEDGE is sadly a wasted opportunity. Had Asger Leth and Pablo F. Fenjves put more considerable effort to make things sensible, the movie would have worked better.