MAN ON A LEDGE
Convicted and jailed for stealing a $40 million diamond from Manhattan tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris), ex-cop and now wanted fugitive, Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) climbs out onto the ledge of New York's famous high-rise Roosevelt Hotel 21 stories above Madison Avenue - seemingly ready to end it all after his father's death. When he calls for the recently disgraced New York Police Department negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), the police are reluctant but concur. When she tries to talk him down, she eventually realises there are other plans afoot and Cassidy might have a powerful ulterior motive.
Review by Louise Keller:
There are umpteen reasons to see this edge-of-seat thriller that never stops in its revelations and twists as its complex inner layers reveal themselves. Part psychological thriller and heist movie, Pablo Fenjves exceedingly clever script with its audacious plot, takes what appears to be a simple premise and with sleight of hand, creates an intricate web of deceit comprising elements that include grand theft, corrupt cops, revenge and redemption. Drama, action, relationships and humour all play a part and it all begins with a man on a ledge.
In the film's opening scenes, we meet an ordinary looking man (Sam Worthington), who checks into New York's Roosevelt Hotel, taking a room on the 21st floor. After tipping the waiter generously, he orders room service (champagne breakfast, lobster, the lot), opens the window and walks precariously onto the ledge. As a crowd quickly gathers on the corner of 45th Avenue and Madison, what initially appears to be a suicide risk, is clearly something far more complicated.
Director Asger Leth creates tension immediately and never lets us off the hook as all the elements slowly come to light. Why does Nick Cassidy (Worthington) check into the hotel under an alias? Why does he remove all traces of his fingerprints from the room? Why does he reject Edward Burns' negotiator and ask for Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) by name, a negotiator who has become a high profile for all the wrong reasons?
In flashback, we learn that Cassidy is an ex-cop, convicted for stealing a $40 million diamond from Ed Harris' unscrupulous real estate tycoon and has now escaped from jail, where he has been sentenced to 25 years. It is no coincidence that a multi-million dollar real-estate deal is about to be launched in the building opposite at precisely the same time as the crisis caused by Cassidy's appearance on the narrow hotel façade ledge.
The strength of the film lies in our connection with Cassidy and our commitment to him strengthens as we, like Lydia, his negotiator, get to know him. The stakes increase substantially, as we realise while Lydia thinks Cassidy is speaking just to her, he is, in fact also speaking through an earpiece to his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his voluptuous, high maintenance girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez), who are in the perilous and highly delicate stages of a heist.
The tempestuous and often hilarious relationship between Joey and his girlfriend accomplice is one of the film's high points - issues about their personal life come into play at the most inopportune moments. (How many gals during a heist will get out their lipstick?)
Worthington holds the film together beautifully, while Banks gives one of her best recent performances as the troubled police negotiator who is asked to make a leap of a judgment call. Burns is also excellent as her cynical colleague, while Harris is suitably vile as the corrupt businessman who believes 'There are two kinds of people: those who do anything to get what they want... and everybody else'. Bell delivers with surprising grit and Rodriguez is a knockout in every sense. All the roles are important and as tensions escalate, we are never sure what is going to happen next.
Just when we think that everything is all over, it is time to be surprised all over again, with the conclusion leaving us more than satisfied. This is a ripper of a film that never runs out of puff.
First published in the Sun-Herald
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With its grab-you title and reliable star power, Man on a Ledge delivers what the high impact concept promises: high voltage tension. If you like your movies too exciting to eat the popcorn ('cause your teeth are clenched and fingers are shaking), this one's for you.
Built on a strong story about one man's drive for restitution (the benign form of revenge), a quest to clear his name, the screenplay touches on all the hot button issues of loyalty, corruption, greed, trust - and Manhattan at its frenzied best.
The story is essentially simple, but the film's clever structure keeps us guessing about some key plot elements that unfold in parallel to the tense confrontation of Cassidy (Sam Worthington) a man on a ledge above New York streets, and specially trained negotiator, Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), and the NYPD - some of whose members are a bit sus. Cassidy claims he was set up and framed for the diamond robbery that put him in jail.
Ed Harris (whose $40 million diamond was said to have been stolen) makes David Englander a nasty tycoon with some cops in his pay, the film's least original creation, although a useful one. He is a voodoo doll for the Occupy Wall Street group and Harris is up to the task.
Ed Burns is terrific as the detective who has to make reluctant way for Lydia at the scene - only to end up a fan - and Kyra Sedgwick is fun as the brash and judgemental New York TV newshound.
The screenplay bristles with well observed details and a zillion moments of anxiety for the characters - and the audience. Inside the outer layer of the thriller is a volatile heist movie
as Cassidy's brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his fiery Latin girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) set about the most audacious of daylight robberies.
It's the well handled complexity of plot and character that singles out the screenplay, and doco maker Asger Leth proves himself more than capable of delivering a large scale, mainstream thriller with just enough depth to make it complete and satisfying.
And another thing: the two female characters - Lydia and Angie - are the drivers of the action. They are neither there as emotional supports or as the nurses. They do much of the heavy lifting in both dramatic and action terms.
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MAN ON A LEDGE (M)
CAST: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Ed Burns, Kyra Sedgwick, Anthony Mackie, William Sadler,
PRODUCER: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian
DIRECTOR: Asger Leth
SCRIPT: Pablo F. Fenjves
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Paul Cameron
EDITOR: Kevin Stitt
MUSIC: Henry Jackman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alec Hammond
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 2, 2012