Man on the Ledge, movie review

‘Man on the Ledge’ Offers

Plenty Of Twists an d Turns

            By Maggie Scott

    A thriller that’s doing its job right doesn’t tip its hand too soon and hopefully takes the viewer on some creative twists and turns.  The best have you going, “Didn’t see that one coming,” more than once.

Director Asger Leth’s thriller, Man On a Ledge, actually benefits from its early hand-tipping.  Until one gets clued in to the real reason that escaped Sing-Sing prisoner Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) and NYPD hostage and suicide negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) are having a tensely bland conversation between an open window and the outside ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel’s 21st floor, one is apt to feel in sympathy with the spectators at street level. They are urging Cassidy to jump, thanks to the film’s deceptively hum-drum opening action and the completely blank impression initially being made by Worthington and Banks.

While Cassidy remains a mystery for the moment on the ledge, Mercer’s reputation (belying her fresh-faced, homecoming Queen looks) precedes her arrival at the hotel with fellow officers’ snide comments of “train wreck” and “grim reaper.”  Bits and pieces of both Cassidy’s and Mercer’s back-story are revealed with well-paced speed as peripheral characters are swiftly and chaotically introduced in the rapid law-enforcement and media response to the “jumper.”

Mercer butts heads with her police cohorts (some of whom may not be as true blue as they should be), when she begins to sense that this is no ordinary potential suicide.  But, she has to go slowly and deliberately—blocking out her colleagues’ reminders of how she failed to bring an officer down off the Brooklyn Bridge.

The sensationalized (and, seemingly, exclusive) coverage of the crisis by NEWS 12 “breaking news” reporter Suzy Morales (Kyra Sedgewick), along with a fingerprint cleverly obtained by Mercer, soon reveal exactly who the jumper is. And it’s not a Mr. Walker, who checked into the hotel, but a former NYPD cop, serving a 25-year sentence for stealing and dispensing the cut up pieces of the Monarch Diamond, belonging to David Englander (Ed Harris). He’s  head honcho in Big Apple real estate; who believes, “On this island, we don’t go to work, we go to war!”

Nick works Lydia, to buy time for his brother Joey (Jamie Bell), and Joey’s girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), to stage a mission impossible-style break-in at Englander International. They persuade Lydia to “trust her instincts” about the way in which Nick might just have been set up to take the rap for the missing gem.

Once the battle of wits between Cassidy and Mercer kicks into high-gear and the bulk of Pablo Fenjves’ script focuses on the white-knuckle break-in—with tension-relieving moments of lovers’ spats and Angie’s eye-popping change into cat burglar attire. Man On a Ledge hits a respectable stride, with one split-second of jaw-dropping surprise to its credit. As with the characters, the appeal of the actors grows on you as the story moves along, maintaining enough structural balance to keep from falling over the edge into a dramatic void.

A Summit Entertainment release, rated PG-13 for language, violence.

 



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