Man on a Ledge (2012)
Dir: Asger Leth
Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris.
Great films that are similar: Dog Day Afternoon, Thief, Heat.
Here is a question that we have all asked at some point: would we free-fall one hundred feet off of a building just to punch Ed Harris in the face?
|After Enemy at the Gates? Yup.|
Actually, to be honest, Ed harris is hardly to blame for this shallow, cliched hodge-podge. In fact, Ed is just one of the many decent actors that struggle admirably against a film suffering grievously with a preposterous plot, archetypical characters, and an ending so contrived it gives the Cold War a run for its money.
So, here is a list of things that we must put up with in order for the thriller elements of this movie to work:
1. A cop is set up for stealing a diamond that he has never been known to possess.
2. A man can fake a death and a fist fight with his brother in order to escape custody.
3. A man can jump from one building to the next like freakin' Spiderman.
4. All businessmen are evil.
5. All women are stupid.
6. So are men.
7. Businessmen are evil enough to build skyscrapers just to protect their precious diamonds.
8. Women dress like they are going to an orgy when they rob diamonds.
9. Lady cops will fall in love with men who are clearly guilty of grand larsony.
Get the idea?
|"Our audience need to be THIS stupid!"|
Don't get me wrong, it's not that this film doesn't work in parts. The plot marginally keeps afloat. The film centers on a disgraced cop who climbs onto the window ledge several stories up in a New York hotel building. What at first looks like an obvious suicide attempt unravels into a greater mystery. With such a stock thriller premise, director Leth (whose only previous outing was indie pic Ghost of City Soliel) needed to be able to shoot and block tense action sequences, and he does do with great gusto.
The film is all about power; about the shamed and forgotten little guy versus the corrupt corporate elite. Thus, despite claims to the contrary, I believe that action-star Sam Worthington was apt for this part. He portrays the role with action credentials, but also with the certain frailty of an average guy dealing with things that far exceed his capacity. Furthermore, up until her character's ridiculous conclusion, Elizabeth banks is surprisingly effective as the tough lady cop with a heart of gold. When she too steps out onto the ledge towards the end, we feel for them both. There is even charmingly human banter during the heist scenes between Jamie Bell's young hot-shot thief and his stunning love interest Genesis Rodriguez.
|Jamie Bell-more man then you??|
So, if the film has moments of tension and the human factor, then why do I think that it stinks? Well, basically, at it's best it is cliche, and at its worst it is ridiculous. Firstly, the fact that Elizabeth Banks's cop character can't spot the set-up is ludicrous. When a strangely calm, non-distressed man is standing on a ledge cracking jokes and looking pretty, it generally means that he is stalling. Take that and add in the fact that he is clearly communicating with his jewel-thief brother through an ear-piece and, at one point, actually attempts to cover up one of his brother's minor explosions by rallying the crowd into a fever pitch of cheering (seriously!).
Then there is Ed Harris's character, a real estate broker that survived the market crash by utilising the corruption of good old capitalism and, essentially, stomping all over the Johnny-Proletariat. He racially insults the mexican character and constantly threatens basically everyone in sight (with or against him) with murder. If there is a sequel, he will need a little pantomine mustache just to up the evil-ante another little bit...
|....because, in film, it's all about subtlety.|
Thus, this is a reasonably innocuous failure. Even if the heroes succeed, do we care in so stock an outing? It is cinematic celery, the cinematic Nissan Almera. It is a movie for that friend of yours who is content for a silly, cathartic affair. For the person who wishes for their films to simply work, and no more. It would be reasonably innocent if it's absurd storytelling didn't occasionally numb the brain.
So, either avoid Man on a Ledge, or just don't use your brain so much....
...some things are better enjoyed without it.