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Man on a Ledge is as pedestrian as its title, a by-thenumbers crime thriller that traffics in ridiculous happenstance, dull action, and witless, spark-free interactions. That it stars Sam Worthington, who’s not exactly building a thrilling repertoire, should be no surprise. That it offers Elizabeth Banks as an NYPD cop, however—well, perhaps an absurd casting weighs in just above an uninspired one.
Director Asger Leth’s first feature film starts off interestingly enough. Nick Cassidy (Worthington) checks into a posh New York hotel and orders a day’s worth of room service and champagne. Then he wipes his prints off the silverware, leaves a note, and, yes, climbs out onto the ledge of his 21st-floor room. “Right there! There’s a man on a ledge!” a passerby helpfully points out.
The film hops back one month earlier, when Nick, an ex-cop, is incarcerated. While attending a funeral service for his father, he makes a run for it: It’s the one action sequence that’s mildly exciting, with Leth’s camera bobbing inside a truck as Nick escapes his former colleagues. He even happens to have civilian clothes under his orange jumpsuit as well as access to a storage space with everything an escaped convict could need—I.D.s, cash, files on people. (Files?) He seems set for life, if it weren’t for one final thing…
That final thing in Pablo F. Fenjves’ script hasn’t really been kept a secret. Nick assumes a new identity and climbs on that ledge to distract New York while his brother, Joey (the always-irritating Jamie Bell), and Joey’s way-too-hot-for-Jamie-Bell girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), rob a real-estate mogul’s jewelry vault across the street. Part of Nick’s plan to ensure maximum diversion is to request that Officer Lydia Mercer (Banks) try to talk him down. Mercer has a checkered past, too, the better to complicate the caper.
There’s a method behind Nick’s yawn-inducing madness; he wants to prove he’s innocent of the crime that landed him in jail. But the further the plot unfolds, the more you don’t care. Nick’s stall tactics grow wearisome; his exchanges with Mercer are head-scratching. (More fun is watching Banks trying to believably bellow, “This is my negotiation!”) The subplot involving Joey and Angie attempts to invoke Ocean’s Eleven in strategy and playfulness, but the couple’s mild bickering never translates into true or entertaining chemistry. And wasted in small roles are Ed Harris and Kyra Sedgwick.
Even the views from that 21st-floor ledge become progressively less gulp-inducing, with one scene in particular—Nick scaling to another floor—recalling the far-superior stunt Tom Cruise pulled off in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The one element that will give you a kick, if for the wrong reasons? A marriage proposal that’s tacked onto the end for no good reason except as an attempt to add some sentimental depth. But really, it can’t be called out, for it’s just as realistic as everything that came before it.