Review: Man on a Ledge


Man on a Ledge continues the proud tradition that seems to be cropping up of naming movies after the thing they’re blatantly about (see: War Horse). The nice thing about Man on a Ledge is that it’s actually about a bit more than just a man on a ledge. While I could mean this in a very metaphorical sense, I actually mean it quite literally. Entire films have been made about men about to commit suicide by jumping off a ledge, but this is not one of them.

Man On a Ledge is a heist movie. Of course, with that established we’re playing in a entirely different ballgame. Now you’ve stopped caring about this guy on a ledge and you want to know if the heist is awesome. Well, while the film lives up to its name by very adeptly putting a man on a ledge I can’t say it lives up to the quality that the heist genre demands.

Man On a Ledge
Director: Asger Leth
Rated: PG-13
Release Date: January 27, 2012

When I talk about the high standards of the heist genre I really mean it. Heist movies not only have to be clever, include an interesting twist, feature solid action and keep you guessing throughout, but they need to be believable while doing completely impossible things. It’s hard to explain, but with heist films there is a balance that has to be maintained between the level or ridiculousness in the complexity of the heist and the sense that it could actually happen. The best phrase to describe it would be believable unbelievability. Man On a Ledge jumps right over the believable part and crashes head first into unbelievability.

In the movie we meet Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), an ex-cop, as he escapes from jail and promptly checks into a hotel only to climb out of his room’s window and threaten suicide. We’re quickly disillusioned of the idea that he’s out to actually kill himself as we learn that his bumbling brother, Joey (Jamie Bell), and Joey’s inexplicably hot girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are in cahoots with him and the trio is attempting to steal something from billionaire tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris). I won’t go into too much detail here since if you do see the movie figuring out the heist is the point, but it also involves Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), who is the cop called to try to talk Nick off his ledge.

I understand that the film was trying to keep things quick and intense (if it hadn’t its plot would have fallen apart even more than it did), but by almost instantly cluing us into factors that could have been hidden and manipulated far better the film loses almost all its drive. As I said before, good heist movies are fun because they’re clever, but Man on a Ledge reveals all its clever parts far too early. What you’re left with is a heist that can only fall back on a plethora of old cliches (air duct crawling, suspension over a motion sensor floor, etc.). By the time you’re a quarter of the way through the film you’ve got it all figured out. On top of this the heist ends before the movie does and what follows is about 20 minutes of action that you’re not that interested in.

Worthington seems to be channeling his robotic Terminator character throughout the entire film, and it’s both his fault and the story’s. By revealing his true pursuits far too early his character isn’t really allowed to intrigue the viewer. Instead you’ve got him pegged in about ten minutes and Worthington does absolutely nothing to draw you back in. Thankfully both Rodriguez and Bell are enjoyable as they stumble their way through the heist. Bell seems like he’s just having fun, and Rodriguez keeps pace with him impressively well (plus, she’s ridiculously hot). Their banter is reminiscent of the quick words you find in great heist films, but it’s missing from the rest of the film and especially in the completely unbelievable relationship between Nick and Lydia.

I will say that while Man On a Ledge is working within its main idea, that being a man on a ledge, it has its moments. The entire concept of the film is actually a great idea for a heist film, but it’s just so poorly executed in other areas that it misses its mark at most turns. By the time the film reached its laughable conclusion it was clear that something, somewhere had gone terribly wrong with this creative idea.

Making a great heist movie is hard so I can excuse a heist film a lot, but Man On a Ledge doesn’t just miss some cues, it takes the cues it does hit and steps all over them. It’s proof that a clever idea doesn’t make for a good film.
Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.