By Steve Persall
Times Movie Critic
Twenty stories above Manhattan stands a Man on a Ledge, a guy named Nick Cassidy. We know he won't jump because he's played by Sam Worthington, and movie hunks don't die like that. Nick has no intention of becoming sidewalk art. He didn't randomly choose this particular ledge.
Across the street, behind the backs of authorities and morbidly fascinated gawkers is a building owned by crooked rich guy David Englander (Ed Harris). He framed Nick for the theft of a $40 million diamond then collected the insurance, stashing the gem in one of those ultra-hidden, super-armored safes that amateurs find and open in Swiss cheese movies like this.
Man on a Ledge makes bigger leaps of logic than Nick will if he fails a gravity test. If the transparent sting springing him from Sing Sing doesn't roll your eyes, then wait for the climax when Nick becomes a kind of plainclothes Spider-Man. Don't you think a search warrant for David's safe would be an easier, safer way to prove Nick's innocence?
Instead, Nick sends goofy brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his Snooki-style girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), with state-of-the-art safecracking equipment that should already have them living much better than they do. Joey and Angie are intended as comic relief, but their scenes feel out of synch with the mild tension of Nick's situation.
Unintentionally amusing is miscast Elizabeth Banks as Lydia Mercer, the loveliest burned-out police negotiator in movie memory. She's specifically requested by Nick to talk him down, and maybe by Worthington as flirt material. Lydia is nicknamed "Grim Reaper" after her last jumper took a dive, and since he was a cop there's a needling detective (Edward Burns) reminding her. When Lydia climbs onto the ledge with Nick, you wonder if it's her procedure or if Banks has simply had enough.
Director Asger Leth makes an inauspicious feature debut, skipping the sense of vertiginous danger the situation calls for. Man on a Ledge might be a Big Apple pressure cooker like Phone Booth with a few genuine close calls, or a hint that Nick may actually be suicidal. We are asked to settle for an easy heist and yet another solution in which the person helping most is someone to be trusted least. After an hour of this malarkey, you're tempted to ask if there's room for one more on that ledge.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.