A month into 2012, and already a contender for worst movie of the year
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
It’s a mitzvah when the movie studios get the worst movie of the year out of the way early — and kind of canny. Cause once you see Man on a Ledge (if you even bother), every movie that follows it will look so good by comparison. It’s rather genius, really, like burning your partner’s toast so your omelet seems tastier.
The title says it all, doesn’t it? We don’t know much about Nick (Sam Worthington), other than he’s a former cop who got sent to the big-house for some reason, and has now escaped and stepped onto the ledge of a building on Madison Avenue. He is both determined that the cops not know who he is, yet actively courting folk-hero status with the people in the street. A hostage negotiator (Elizabeth Banks) serves some function, I’m not sure what. There’s a smug TV reporter (Kyra Sedgwick), too, just so you know who to hate for doing their job.
Sam Worthington got off to a propitious movie career: His first three roles (in Terminator: Salvation, Clash of the Titans and Avatar) made him a household name, if not face, and last year he took on a “prestige” picture, The Debt, which wasn’t very good but looked like it might be, so props for that.
By now he should be realizing that lucky casting and good hair will only take you so far. He’s expected to carry Man on a Ledge, despite the “all-star” cast (with “star” having the same definition it does on Dancing with the Stars). Worthington is, after all, the title Man, who doesn’t seem suicidal but appears to have nothing to lose… unlike the audience, which loses nearly two hours of its life. He goes for being twitchy, since he doesn’t get to move around much.
As a Donald Trump-like real estate mogul and professional blowhard, Ed Harris appears positively skeletal; I don’t think it’s because he’s supposed to remind of the villainous Skeletor, either. He’s gaunt and frail, and he moves as if his entire body is in a cast. You don’t so much want him to get his comeuppance as you do an MRI. Edward Burns, inarguably Hollywood’s most boring actor, plays a rough-and-tumble cop, because, I mean, what’s a cop movie without someone who can be a sexist asshole to the women in the movie? Man on a Ledge doesn’t miss many clichés: Its plot is needlessly complex (an elaborate heist, reliance on precise police procedures, a series of “planned” coincidences) but also nonsensical (if any one of the Rube Goldberg-eqsue plans varies even slightly, the entire thing collapses; even if they accomplish their task, they prove nothing), as well as, for example, a beautiful girl stripping down to her bra because, you know, guys like to see that kind of thing. (The men also make crudely homophobic jokes, just to prove they are “real men.”) Gaps in logic and cheesy objectification and bigotry are the least of its problems however. The director, Asger Leth, and scripter, Pablo A. Fenjves, find it necessary to make every single scene a conflict between some characters, as if that will mask the lack of overall dull idea underlying it and a climax that’s flabbier and less exciting than an obese person marathon.
On the continuum of bad quasi-mysteries about complicated capers with hidden motives, Man of a Ledge is about on par with Inside Man and a few steps below Law Abiding Citizen and nowhere near the original Talking of Pelham 1-2-3 (though about the same as the remake). It may make you think about other films, but it’s best not to think about (or see) this one.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.