For anyone concerned with truth in advertising, Asger Leth’s Man on a Ledge does indeed feature a man on a ledge. The man in question is Sam Worthington—complete with a hideous haircut (honestly, the otter attached to his head gives the film’s best performance) and a dopey, hard-boiled accent—as Nick Cassidy, a former NYPD cop and now an escaped convict. By standing on said ledge, Nick plans on proving his innocence once and for all—and in the most convoluted of ways.
The whole plot revolves around a $40 million diamond Nick was convicted of stealing. And because he swears he was set up, his plan is to steal it for real from the smarmy businessman (Ed Harris) who framed him. How this is supposed to prove one’s innocence is beyond me, as it doesn’t really prove anything other than you actually know how to steal diamonds. (“Hey, nice diamond you’ve got there. Looks sort of like the one that we already threw you in jail for stealing.”) But this obvious plot hole can’t stop the plot from moving forward. So we get Nick standing around on a ledge to distract everyone while his brother (Jamie Bell) and his brother’s girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez, cast seemingly more for her cleavage than her acting talent) break into the bad guy’s vault.
The apparent idea is to mix Spike Lee’s Inside Man (2006) with Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon (1975). While Man on a Ledge is self-aware enough to realize its ties to Lumet’s movie (we even get an “Attica! Attica!” reference), it doesn’t quite hold its own when compared to Lee’s film. Inside Man had its own share of plot holes, but it was fast-paced and entertaining enough to keep these out of mind while the film was onscreen. Man on a Ledge seems to take the idea to an extreme: If the film moves fast enough, no one will notice how improbable the heist aspects of the film are. (We have a pair of the noisiest, messiest cat burglars imaginable, yet no one seems to be able to catch onto their scheme.) The frenzied pacing has roughly the same effect as yanking a Band-Aid off—it gets the pain of the badly plotted sections over with quickly—but it also leaves an already paper-thin film feeling even more slight.
Man on a Ledge is a movie that might have worked in the hands of a director with a sense of style, but former documentarian Leth is purely a utilitarian filmmaker. His attempts at social commentary in the form of a sensationalistic news reporter (Kyra Sedgwick) rapidly devolves into a ham-fisted and cloying kind of comic relief. As a faded Xerox copy of better films, Man on a Ledge is 2012’s first truly forgettable movie. Rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.