Friday, January 23, 2015

EPISODE 1 REVIEW: Man on a Ledge

Director: Asger Leth
Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks

When you a see a DVD box for a movie called Man on a Ledge with a guy standing on a tall ledge overlooking a busy street below, certain thoughts enter your mind like “if the whole movie is about this then surely we’re in for a psychologically challenging ride” or “that’s why I don’t wash windows for a living.” But then you see a review on the box that says “a white-knuckle action thriller” and suddenly you can’t help but feel like you’re about to be disappointed. It’s like seeing Terrorism: The Movie with the review “fun for the whole family!” You can’t go anywhere with that except “well, I got nowhere to be so let’s just watch this play out.”

In Man on a Ledge Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is an ex-cop who breaks out of prison (by which I mean basically asks to go outside and then runs away) who comes up with a plan to pretend like he’s about to jump off a ledge to get public attention so they don’t notice the diamond heist he’s masterminding across the street (because everyone was apparently waiting for that). The reason for this heist is so he can prove that the diamond heist he was framed for didn’t actually occur because he literally just stole the diamond again so he couldn’t possibly have the first time. This kind of reminds me of Woody trying to convince the toys that he didn’t kill Buzz by pretending to talk with just his arm, except in this movie that plan would have worked perfectly even after showing the dismembered appendage to the horror of the crowd.

So according to the Wikipedia page
they printed out, it's the panel that's
18 inches long that is fake one that
doesn't trip any alarms.
Quick note about setting: When you have a movie that revolves around a single, mostly stationary location, what drives the suspense is the evolution of that location and how people deal with added complexity. Phonebooth nailed this, Saw did as well. Things challenged that spot and how characters dealt with it is what it made it interesting, but Man on a Ledge didn’t even seem to try. There was no sense of urgency with the film at all. Nick wasn’t going to jump, nobody was coming after him (or the actual thieves for that matter) and the diamond heist itself looked like it was storyboarded on an Atari because the hardest thing about it was listening to the fucking music.

For shits and giggles, Elizabeth Banks played as a negotiator who was told quite directly “I’m actually faking this so I can steal a diamond across the street” and spent most of her time saying “should I trust this guy who just broke out of prison, has informed me he’s not jumping off this ledge and just committed to a felony taking place across the street? Well, I got nowhere to be so let’s just watch this play out.” Edward Burns is in it for some reason, Ed Harris is in it for some reason, some girl takes off her clothes for some reason I recognize the black guy but he didn't matter really. What actually mattered here? I'm struggling. I watched this 3 days ago...I'm still having issues.

My biggest struggle with this was that absolutely nothing forced this movie forward and I think it stopped being interested in itself after a while. It just ran on autopilot pretty much from the very start and didn't give a shit about its characters at all, as if the premise of him being a cop that was standing on a ledge was going to satisfy all my needs despite the fact that the movie doesn't really do anything with either of them. I would have been happier watching a ball roll down a hill because although I know where it will all end, there might actually be bumps in that journey.

In fact, when it is all over, everyone reacts as if they suddenly understand the underlying plot. Applause comes from the spectators as if they were all in on this being a diamond heist the whole time; I didn’t feel cheated anymore so much as I felt like I was the last one to the party.

Sam Worthington is as convincing
as a giant blue space alien doing
a dramatic re-enactment of Ferngully.
It’s not that I feel that the “dishonored cop commits a felony to prove his innocence” mechanic is bad because The Negotiator is one of my favorite movies and it did just that. It’s that this one was just so lazily done and all of the thrill of a man on a ledge was thrown away when he said it was all a ruse and nothing really clever or exciting came from him being there. He used the public spectacle to his "advantage" twice, both of which in instances he probably wouldn’t have had to if he didn’t create one in the first place. Honestly, the two people doing the dirty work could probably have walked through the front door and asked the security guard to borrow the keys to the vault. Realistically, this could have been Man at a Desk or Man on a Toilet and had the same impact.
I wouldn’t have minded that actually: “Nick Cassidy tries to mastermind a diamond heist while dealing with a nasty case of explosive diarrhea.” I’ll take my Oscar now, thank you. Best Original Screenplay…or Special Effects.

There's so little to appreciate about this movie and it phones in just about every area that I don't even know what the hell genre to put this in. With a strong desire to film my own sequel to this movie titled DVD off a Ledge, this is barely worth the time to vacuum up the splattered remains of this crap with the 5 dustbusters I’m giving it.

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