Movie Review: Man on a Ledge- A Laughably Contrived Heist Film That Suffers from Uninventive Direction and an Unappealing Cast of Animatronic Characters

Whatever happened to the great heist films of yesteryear where that sense of urgency and a unique cast of characters made the experience truly exciting and nerve racking? Now we’re stuck with bland and highly probable capers that have characters as flat as their heists. This is a perfect description of the first feature film from director Asger Leth entitled Man on a Ledge, which follows an ex-cop turned escaped felon (Sam Worthington) trying to prove his innocence. In order to do this he must prove that the diamond he supposedly stole from a renowned real estate mogul is still actually in the vault where it originally was. It’s a film that tries to replicate many different and obvious influences mainly Dog Day Afternoon and The Negotiator and does so terribly, almost damaging their memory. Man on a Ledge actually brings to mind a more suitable comparison, which is the other atrocious New York set thriller Phone Booth directed by Joel Schumacher.  Instead of taking a chance to make a heist movie worth our time it quickly becomes an amateur to-do list for heist film clichés.

How Hollywood tries to distract its devoted droves known as their audience is with typical thrills and Man on a Ledge follows this list in highly expectable fashion. Instead of building tension through meticulous planning and execution such as the highly influential film from Jules Dassin Rififi we’re left with anticipated plot movements and typical time constraints that actually feel infinite rather than urgent. Instead of characters that feel real such as in Kubrick’s classic The Killing we’re left with characters that are all too familiar, incredibly obtuse, and resemble animatronics instead of real human beings. For the typical movie audience you will get your car chases, your bullets flying, and your high flying stunts but what you won’t get is any resemblance of a film you’ve never seen before. Everything in Man on a Ledge has been done before and surprisingly far better from equally unmemorable films.

The only exclusive aspect of Man on a Ledge that could have been exploited was the mere fact that they are outside at great heights and cinematographer Paul Cameron does what he can to make it visually interesting. However, the lack of visual acrobatics and wasted potential of audience inducing vertigo leaves a drastic hole for enjoyment. There are only a couple of moments where the ledge appears slim and dangerous but it’s never consistent to the point where it demands our own sense of danger. Surprisingly this film could have benefited from the usual novelty known as 3D, though that could never have fixed the two dimensional script and cast so it’s probably a good thing they didn’t spend the money. These examples show that first time feature directors coming off of doing documentaries might not have the best sense for thrilling visual storytelling.

And now for a moment about the supposed talent of Sam Worthington who was destined to be the next true action star. After James Cameron picked this unusually stoic and consistently awkward actor to be in Avatar Worthington’s schedule seemed to be full of all kinds of career making projects. Yet Worthington has been the single worst aspect of every single film he touches, including Terminator Salvation, Clash of the Titans, and even last year’s relatively enjoyable remake The Debt. In Man on a Ledge he is only consistently unconvincing as he even breaks accent from scene to scene. Worthington is an anchor on any film he is cast in and though the script and direction for Man on a Ledge was beyond sub-par it could have been slightly better with a lead who had conviction and appeal.

Some people were probably wondering if there was anything more to the simplistic and laughable title Man on a Ledge, but as with other horribly titled films it leaves nothing to be desired. The so called twisty plot reveals itself in such a slow pace that the only work your brain will be doing is trying to figure out why this movie was made in the first place. Ultimately the film has no visual delights, no interesting or appealing characters, or even a fulfilling ending. The only tension that you’ll feel is the anxiousness to vicariously watch the bland Sam Worthington actually jump bringing this horribly written film to end prematurely. Luckily it is January so these films are expected to be terrible but if this is the tone being set for 2012 then fret for a quality entertainment year.

Grade: D

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