Man on a Ledge is a bottom-of-the-barrel thriller that has everything you don’t want in a movie and more: bad editing, casting and direction in the service of juvenile story. Instead of suspense, it offers noise and confusion. Instead of a coherent sequence of events, one unbelievable contrivance after another that takes the viewer out of the film.
Sam Worthington (Terminator 2, Clash of the Titans) is the man of the title, Nick Cassidy, an incarcerated ex-cop who busts out of jail with the help of his younger brother Joey (the wispy Jamie Bell) and little bro’s way-out-of-his-league, model-pretty girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez).
Cassidy’s plan, which he’s been hatching behind bars, is to prove that he didn’t steal a hefty diamond from venal real estate developer David Englander (Ed Harris in a reptilian turn). Prior to the events of the film, Englander had framed Cassidy under circumstances that should have been left unexplained, because they’re laughable.
Little bro and his hottie are thus tasked with stealing the diamond that Cassidy, for reasons known only to him, is convinced is in Englander’s vault. Joey and Angie, who seem ill-equipped to get past the first round of a reality TV game show, improbably work their way past a series of high-tech defense mechanisms while engaging in witless sexual banter.
Cassidy figures the best way to help out in this scheme is by stepping out on the ledge of a hotel across the street from the vault’s location, where he can act as a lookout against the police force that he just attracted to the scene with his action. While up there, he confides in hostage negotiator Lydia Anderson (Elizabeth Banks), a cop whose singular talent is nursing the same cup of coffee for the film’s duration.
Joey and Angie don’t find the diamond, but Englander makes up for their failure with a single preposterous act. From here, the movie plays out like chunks of it were left on the cutting room floor. Joey and Angie get the drop on Englander without any build-up or explanation. Just as suddenly, they’re being tortured by a bad cop.
The film tries to merge two well-worn genres — the police standoff and the impossible heist flick — but has no idea how to competently deal with either. Man on a Ledge can’t even muster the energy to be fun, instead providing an ugly portrait of New York City, including the trite clichés of dirty cops on the take and black-hearted citizenry urging Cassidy to retire from his perch and take the Nestea plunge.
Director Asger Leth is also out of his depth, churning chaos instead of telling a story. Man on a Ledge thus rests on Worthington’s shoulders, and it’s too much for his limited talents as an actor. Here, his biggest accomplishment is to make the act of standing on a ledge high above the city pavement seem dull. At least in this respect, he and the film are a perfect match.