Nonstop Movies: ‘Man on a Ledge’

A sharp-dressed man named Nick Cassidy checks into a luxurious Manhattan hotel, orders himself a fancy meal of lobster and champagne, then cleans the room of prints, leaves a brief note, and steps out onto a narrow ledge, threatening to jump. But is he really suicidal or merely causing a diversion, so his younger brother Joey and his girlfriend Angie can swipe a $40 million diamond across the street?

That’s the plot for “Man on a Ledge,” a movie with numerous flaws, even beyond its title — the most blunt and unimaginative name since “Snakes on a Plane.”

First of all, the casting is a huge disaster. An Australian (Sam Worthington) and a Brit (Jamie Bell) unconvincingly play the two New York brothers. Elizabeth Banks, a cheery blonde, is horribly miscast as Lydia Mercer, a NYC detective with a traumatic past. Emmy winner and film veteran Kyra Sedgwick plays a Latina reporter named Morales in a throwaway role that’s made even worse by her insistence to pronounce her last name as if she’s really a Latina. You could hear the entire audience snicker every time she said “Mo-LAH-les.”

Then there’s the acting. Worthington inexplicably continues to get leading roles, despite not having an ounce of charisma. Sure, he’s been in huge blockbuster films such as “Avatar,” “Terminator: Salvation” and “Clash of the Titans,” but those films were about special effects, not acting. Worthington’s blandness continues in “Man on a Ledge,” and it’s extremely difficult to root for a protagonist who’s so uninteresting. I was almost hoping for him to jump and get the whole thing over with. The accents throughout are atrocious as well. I couldn’t identify the accents Worthington and Bell were attempting because they changed constantly, while Banks turned hers on and off. I could almost see true New Yorker Edward Burns, who plays a detective, shaking his head at his cast mates, as they butchered his native tongue.

The uneven tone of the screenplay is yet another miscue. The scenes between Nick and Mercer are supposed to be tense and suspenseful, but when they’re intercut with scenes of Joey and Angie having silly lover quarrels as they’re stealing the diamond, it’s impossible to take anything seriously. But the most ridiculous scene has to be the gratuitous shot of Angie in her underwear, changing into a cat suit so she can maneuver in the ventilation duct lines. In theory, it makes perfect sense, except for the fact that her original outfit was just as form fitting, so the only reason for the shot was to show some skin.

Yet strangely, despite all of its flaws, “Man on a Ledge” entertains. I was mentally noting all of the things that didn’t work as I watched the film, and I knew that I shouldn’t be enjoying myself, but the movie surprisingly kept my attention to the end. The ledge scenes are shot effectively, so those with acrophobia will be holding their breath, and the heist scenes also are well-executed. If expectations are kept low, “Man on a Ledge” is a passable thriller and a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

“Man on a Ledge,” 102 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters today.