Man an a Ledge, the latest action thriller from Summit Entertainment, attempts to tap into and manipulate the simmering anger of those in the 99 percent who would like to get even with Wall Street. In fact, for all its “David vs. Goliath” sensibility, the film could just have easily been called “Man Occupies Ledge.”
Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) stars as Nick Cassidy, an ex-cop rotting in prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. When Cassidy escapes and steps out onto the ledge of the world-famous Roosevelt Hotel in New York City to profess his innocence, he comes face to face with hostage negotiator Lydia Mercer (played by Elizabeth Banks of Zack & Miri Make A Porno) and sets in motion a chain of events that will either clear his name or get him killed.
It’s tough to say much about the story without giving away too much. Borrowing heavily from superior hostage and heist films that came before it, at its best Man on a Ledge is a harmless, dumbed-down version of Dog Day Afternoon. Unfortunately, for all involved, Worthington is not Al Pacino. Like the title of the film, he’s generic, and although he has certainly hit the movie-franchise jackpot over the past couple of years, something crucial is missing here. His character’s mullet hairstyle in the film may evoke those great ’80s action heroes, but as an actor, he lacks the charisma of Sylvester Stallone or Mel Gibson. That’s not to say Worthington’s performance hurts the film at the end of the day, but it certainly doesn’t add anything.
As Joey Cassidy, the younger brother to Worthington’s ex-cop, Jamie Bell (The Adventures of Tintin, Billy Elliot) is far more entertaining. The interplay and goofy chemistry between his character and girlfriend Angie (the fiery Genesis Rodriguez) provides an excellent foil during the high-stakes jewelry heist scenes because neither character is a professional criminal. When Angie studiously applies a bit of lip gloss before detonating a bomb and Joey frets over an unforeseen danger, Man on a Ledge finally stops feeling like a rehash and begins to seem almost fresh.
The unconventional casting of Banks as the disgraced hostage negotiator also works well. Probably best known for her comedic work, Banks is fun to watch as she puts together the pieces of the Cassidy brothers’ puzzle, and the tentative trust she develops with fellow officer Jack Dougherty (Ed Burns) comes across as sincere without being overwrought.
Ever since the financial crisis hit, there’s been no shortage of Wall Street villains in Hollywood, and as vulture capitalist David Englander, Ed Harris (Pollock, Apollo 13) turns in an arch, mustache-twirling performance. Gleefully over-the-top work can enhance an action thriller, especially if it adds another layer of threat to an otherwise stock villain character, but there’s something unforgivably paint by numbers in the way Harris chomps on cigars and throws expensive watches at underlings. Veteran character actor Chris Cooper turned in a similarly teeth-gnashing performance in The Muppets as oil baron Tex Richman. But Cooper was playing opposite a cast of singing and dancing puppets; Harris doesn’t have that luxury. So when he commits a final act of treachery and swaggers away blowing exaggerated kisses, it feels as if director Asger Leth (Ghosts of Cite Soliel) has inexplicably instructed Harris to behave like a WWE wrestler rather than an upscale criminal mastermind.
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) is the film’s camera-ready Greek chorus with her snarky cameo as ruthless TV news reporter Suzie Morales, and her cutting play-by-play and hyper-accented pronunciation of her last name earn her some of the film’s biggest laughs.
Despite its many faults, the film is still pretty enjoyable. Like its title, and leading man, Man on a Ledge is generic, but it also succeeds in playing it safe.
Man on a Ledge opens today nationwide.
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