A thriller short on the thrill
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, Jan. 27, 2012
Say this much for "Man on a Ledge": It sure is about a man on a ledge.
The audience, on the other hand, never quite gets that vertiginous anything-can-happen feeling watching Asger Leth's preposterous action thriller.
Sam Worthington plays ex-cop Nick Cassidy, who has been doing a stretch in prison for a crime he didn't commit. After masterminding a breakout, he winds up at Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel, where he calmly opens a window 200 feet up and climbs out after consuming a last supper of lobster and champagne.
But wait! Cassidy's stunt may be more complicated than a mere death wish, as becomes clear when he summons Lydia Mercer to the scene. That tough-as-nails police negotiator is played by Elizabeth Banks in what's supposed to be a frazzled, hungover state, the first of a series of whoppers that get bigger and dumber as the tick-tock progresses.
Often recalling the superior "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" in its ambitious plot twists and stunts, "Man on a Ledge" presents a more down-market version of the same essential elements. Leth, working from a script by Pablo F. Fenjves, never chooses craft or subtlety when obviousness works just as easily. So the stolen jewel that figures prominently in "Man on Ledge" looks like it came from the Acme Diamond Co. and a cheeky supporting character played by Genesis Rodriguez simply can't do her bit for Cassidy's scheme unless she strips down to her pink Vicky's Secrets.
Like last year's action comedy "Tower Heist," "Man on a Ledge" becomes something of a parable of the 99 percent, with Cassidy initially an object of prurient interest for the massed crowds below, then becoming a blue-collar folk hero. That gives the movie at least a frisson of contemporary relevance, but the filmmakers blow that advantage with plot and characterization that require, not just a suspension of disbelief but a suspension of eye-rolling reflexes and the nagging impulse to burst into derisive laughter. "Man on a Ledge" has its diverting moments, but by the time it has reached its too-pat final twist, it turns out to be a title desperately in search of a movie.