Man on a Ledge 

Sam Worthington capably anchors run-of-the-mill New York caper

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Man on a Ledge

3 Stars
(PG-13)

Let’s start with that title: Man on a Ledge, a refreshingly direct hook for an audience that might not want it; an introduction as evocative as Lady in a Cage for modern masses more jaded by the likes of Snakes on a Plane. Of course, nothing is what it seems, and Ledge is neither as pulpy as one nor as campy as the other; it’s a machine calibrated to dole out twists and turns with clocklike precision, if not roller-coaster velocity.

Naturally, we begin with a chap on an overhang, hanging out on the wrong side of a 21st-story window until the hustlers and bustlers of midtown Manhattan finally gaze up and begin gawking, aiming their camera phones his way and audibly encouraging him to jump. That’s not why police officer-turned-escaped convict Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is out there on the ledge, though; his intention is to distract from the heist that his brother, Joey (Jamie Bell), is concurrently attempting just across the street. Should the latter steal a precious diamond from real estate magnate David Englander (Ed Harris), they hope the gem will prove the former’s innocence in having been charged with stealing it in the first place.

It’s a Big Apple caper along the lines of Inside Man or the original Pelham 123 without the same sense of local color, or along the lines of The Negotiator with Elizabeth Banks subbing for Kevin Spacey as the only cop that Nick can trust, or Tower Heist without the strained class conflict or Phone Booth without life lessons from a madman. Director Asger Leth (Ghosts of Cité Soleil) and writer Pablo Fenjves are more interested in simply keeping the ball alive, regularly revealing new motives and obstacles for the players to contend with.

They want the viewer to buy that the Cassidy boys, along with eye-candy Genesis Rodriguez, could pull off a scheme that would have IMF taking a deep breath, even after milking their amateur status for laughs and tension. Yet, all the while, one can practically sense the commercial breaks to come in between the close calls; Fenjves is a TV vet, and Leth’s sturdy-at-best direction only reinforces the idea that the only thing missing from the finished product is a TNT logo in the lower right corner of the screen.

Much like their characters, the ensemble here consists mostly of professionals cooperating just long enough to run out the clock: Worthington’s unflagging determination is undermined by his dodgy American accent; Banks is mostly relegated to window-side puzzle-piecing; Kyra Sedgwick fleetingly shows up to be the butt of one sharp joke about on-air personalities; Ed Burns briefly appears to assure us that’s a $40 million diamond, to be exact; and Ed Harris is more hammy than menacing – ironic, given his seemingly emaciated state.

No one embarrasses themselves, but neither does anyone stand out. Ultimately, the whole affair feels like it’s a script doctor and a casting director away from being a more remarkable potboiler than it is.

More by William Goss

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