Man on a Ledge is an alleged action thriller where the hero spends most of his time standing still, perched precariously between forward momentum and plot contrivance, with very little wiggle room. The man is question is Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) a disgraced cop and escaped con, letting it all hang out the 51st floor window ledge of a swanky Manhattan hotel, in a last act of protest over the raw deal he's been handed. There's more to this story: There's an elaborate plan behind Nick's seemingly desperate act; he's actually just serving as a highly visible distraction from the revenge plot he's cooked up against the crooked billionaire who initially framed him. We only get the details gradually; the movie takes its sweet time dolling out the twists, like a tree sloth hand-rolling pretzels.
The result is approximately as numbing as watching an all-day CSI marathon, but compressed into a movie's running time. It's a twisty crime caper with the soul of a plodding procedural; the sort of movie where hordes of plainclothes cops stand around drinking coffee from paper cups, incessantly barking at each other over who's in charge of this crime scene. As the crisis unfolds, Nick becomes something of a folk hero to the crowd below, though the film's political consciousness is less a nod to the occupy movement, as a tip of the cap to such relevant '70s capers as Dog Day Afternoon.
Everything here feels old hat. A moderately amusing setup is undermined by Pablo F. Fenjves' hackneyed script, full of clichéd exchanges ("You're way out of line, mister!") and generic characterizations; here the NYPD flatfoots mostly adhere to Irish and Italian stereotypes and have store-bought B-movie names such as "Jack Daugherty" a brick-head played with one-note obliviousness by Edward Burns. Cardboard cutout action hero Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) continues to prove he's some sort of powerful warlock who controls casting directors, because his on-screen appeal is negligible. Poor Elizabeth Banks, who is a delight in comedic roles, gets saddled with clunky verbiage and a stock, hard-bitten lady cop character, which fits her like a space suit fits a python.
Ed Harris relishes his role as the heavy, an amoral tycoon intent on winning at all costs, playing him like a feral jungle cat ready to rip faces off, in between long, pensive drags on his Cuban robustos. Harris is a blast to watch; at least he's treating the absurd material with the knowing smirk it deserves.
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