Man on a Ledge is a nail-biting, popcorn chomping ride through one man’s quest to prove his innocence. It’s a lean and taut tale that rarely gives you time to settle back into your seat with vertigo-inducing shots, high tension moments throughout and a sharp and often funny script. It is therefore a genuine shame that this fantastic build up should surrender so wholeheartedly in the final 15 minutes.
Throughout any action movie there are moments where one has to suspend one’s disbelief and this film is no exception. But whereas the little glitches throughout most of the film are acceptable, nay even part of the fun, the leap of faith required to get over the finish line is big enough to take lead role, Sam Worthington, to a ledge on the other side of the street.
The plot focuses on Nick Cassidy, an ex-cop who was imprisoned for stealing a $40 million diamond, and his attempt to prove that he was framed by the very man who had owned that diamond, David Englander, ruthlessly played by a harsh and skeletal Ed Harris. Cassidy’s plan is to distract the NYPD and the rest of New York by standing 21 floors up from the sidewalk, threatening to jump and asking for a negotiator with a famously dodgy track record (played by Elizabeth Banks) to try to talk him down.
While the world is focused on the man on a ledge, Cassidy’s brother and his girlfriend, charmingly played by Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez, must infiltrate Englander’s vault and steal the diamond that was supposedly stolen, cut up and sold on by Cassidy. The pair’s onscreen dynamic is fun and believable: they struggle as anyone who’s not a professional thief would, they argue and make up and they keep each other going.
This plot has enough twists and turns, blind alleys and confusions to build to a truly dramatic finale. There are excellent cameo roles, from the amoral and hideously news hungry reporter, Suzie Morales to the arrogant, angry and brilliantly named Detective, Dante Marcus. You care about the characters, about Cassidy’s innocence, you even care about the negotiator a bit. You know that the ending is going to be something ridiculous, something enormous but you’re invested enough not to be overly concerned.
But the cop-out at the end leaves you feeling quite... deflated, disappointed, cheated almost. It feels as though writer Fenjves had an entirely different ending thought out only to change it in a rushed, fanciful and powerless farce that genuinely had people in the audience guffawing in disbelief. It’s a huge shame because up to this point Man on a Ledge is a cracking film that promises more that it eventually delivers.
EXTRAS ★★ The making-of featurette The Ledge (14:40); the film's trailer, with a commentary by Banks (really? an audio commentary on a trailer?); interviews with director Leith, executive producer David Ready, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura and producer Mark Vahradian (21:17).