Man on a Ledge (2012)


For his feature debut, Danish filmmaker Asger Leth follows his 2006 documentary Ghosts of Cite Soleil (co-directed with Milos Loncarevic) with something entirely different; a high concept action thriller that is about as Hollywood as they come. That’s to say that everything is overblown, from premise to location and effects, and – like so many of its genre – it’s entirely throwaway.

Sam Worthington takes the lead as Nick, an ex-cop turned escaped con who is threatening to throw himself from one of the top stories of a towering Manhattan hotel. As the city comes to a standstill below him, troubled police negotiator Lydia (Elizabeth Banks) tries to talk him down. But the more time that Nick spends on the ledge, the more Lydia begins to realise that there’s far more to his suicidal behaviour than she could ever have imagined.

And to say any more than that would be to expose the narrative foundations on which this film so depends; suffice it to say that Nick’s brother Joey (Jamie Bell) also has a part to play in this tallest of tales. Indeed, what enjoyment there is comes from surrendering to  Pablo F Fenjves’ twisting screenplay, which just reveals a little more at every turn; albeit casting a great deal of credibility and logic aside in its pursuit of high octane thrills. And while the cast do their best, their characters are simply not developed past being vessels to carry the plot.

Concentrate on the one dimensional characterisation, the derivative nature of the script, the cliché ridden dialogue or the pat ending, and Man on a Ledge will be completely lost. But if you can remember that the action genre has always operated within its own unique set of rules—where the most audacious behaviour always generates the most explosive results, virtually every set piece and plot point has been done before and the end always, always justifies the means—and the film’s simplistic charms may well win you over. Just don’t expect to remember them in the morning.

2 stars

UK Release Date: February 3, 2012