Man on a Ledge

Fri, Feb 3, 2012, 00:00

Directed by Asger Leth. Starring Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Anthony Mackie, Ed Burns, Genesis Rodriguez, Kyra Sedgwick, Ed Harris 12A cert, general release, 102 min

“JUMP! DO IT! DO IT!” inconvenienced New Yorkers shout at poor Sam Worthington. The titular attention-seeker has just teetered onto a ledge surrounding the 21st floor of a Manhattan hotel.

Go on, Sam, jump. The sooner your innards are displayed on Madison Avenue, the sooner we can escape this absurd melodrama and engage with something more interesting. There are sock drawers to be sorted. Grouting needs scrubbing. What are you waiting for, you chicken?

There was no reason for Man on a Ledgeto be quite so dreadful. The film does, after all, have quite a neat premise. The usually reliable Worthington plays a recently escaped felon engaged in an elaborate scheme to prove his innocence. While he creates this lofty diversion, his brother (Jamie Bell) attempts to break into a nearby bank vault and retrieve the jewel Sam was accused of stealing. It seems that evil, overwrought Ed Harris – run for your life, scenery, the chewing is about to begin – faked the robbery in order to reap a hefty insurance payout.

Okay, it’s not exactly a “neat” premise. But one can detect a decent high-concept thriller fighting to escape the crummy dialogue and back-of-an-envelope plotting. One doesn’t ask for Rear Window. But something in the vicinity of Phone Boothmight have been nice.

The film’s insecurity of tone is at its most stark during the conversations between Worthington and disgraced copper Elizabeth Banks. Featuring endless relaxed diversions, the duologues have the unhurried quality that characterises conversations between friendly commuters awaiting the delayed service to Long Island City. Can they really have forgotten that poor Sam is stranded 250 feet above the ground?

Meanwhile, Bell and his girlfriend – who needs little encouragement to strip down to pink underwear – carry out a scheme so absurdly unlikely that one positively longs for the recent, infinitely more amusing Tower Heist.

Give him just the tiniest nudge, Officer Banks. That ought to do the trick.