Man on a Ledge stars Sam Worthington, whose robotic acting is best forgotten in blockbusters such as Avatar, Clash of the Titans and best remembered in Terminator: Salvation, where he was actually part cyborg. As you can imagine with any movie where the lead character wants to commit robot suicide off a high-rise building - expectations were low.
Thankfully relatively unknown director Asger Leth and TV movie screenwriter, Pablo F. Fenjves have managed to negotiate a pretty decent thriller with an equally decent cast. The ensemble are cemented by the presence of Ed Harris, although most directors would be thrilled to have the likes of Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Genesis Rodriguez, Anthony Mackie and Edward Burns at their disposal.
There aren't really any stand out performances in this team effort, but it's good to see Sam Worthington tackling a more conventional film role. In his previous films, he's been more of a vessel for the audience and as the title character in Man on a Ledge he clocks in a convincing performance as Nick Cassidy.
The supporting cast have good chemistry but it's another day at the office with Titus Welliver and Ed Harris making the biggest impact. The innocent man stigma of The Next Three Days gives Elizabeth Banks a bit of history, up-and-coming actor, Anthony Mackie, does well with the screen time and Jamie Bell adds a bit of high-tech diamond thief fun with Genesis Rodriguez.
Man on a Ledge is an original blend of better films, most notably, Inside Job, Phone Booth and Man on Wire. The plot makes direct parallels with these movies as an ex-con distracts bystanders and law enforcement agencies from a diamond heist by threatening to jump from a Manhattan building.
It smacks of Spike Lee's Inside Job in the style of shooting, the story involving a despicable businessman, the art of distraction and the actual heist itself. Although, Man on a Ledge jumps between the thrill of the diamond heist and the high pressure media, emergency services jumper scenario in a locked-down New York City block.
The fixed position under duress, maintained by several key actors is reminiscent of Phone Booth with Colin Farrell. Emergency services, media harassment and a sense of imminent jeopardy heighten the urgency of this literal on edge thriller. Although, the intensity is maintained by switching between heist and jumper... eventually bridging the two with some interesting twists.
Then possibly the inspiration for the entire film must be attributed to the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, the true story of French tightrope-walking daredevil, Phillipe Petit. The documentary was shot and edited like a heist film as his team set up his illegal high-wire routine over New York City's twin towers World Trade Center in 1974. Why not add a real heist and make this, or a similar high-rise stunt, the distraction.
The tone is mostly suited to drama thriller, with one or two lighter moments to break the tension. While the brief levity adds to the entertainment value, you can't help but wonder how it would have turned out with a much grittier tone, look and feel.
As it stands, Man on a Ledge is an entertaining popcorn thriller, a crowd-pleaser with an intriguing premise and a dull familiarity. There are one or two plot developments that rely on you letting go a bit, but the pacing, tension and twists-and-turns lure you back in. It never really threatens to outclass its influences, but turns in a competent team effort.
The bottom line: Fun