The Ledge survives on a foundation where absolutely every conversation topic from dildos to dinner dates inevitably comes back to the God question. This, I’m afraid, is not an exaggeration. The screenplay is stuffed with these debates, or one forever flexible. It shares so much in common with the style of stageplay that it forgets to be a film, never taking advantage of any freedoms this art form provides.
There’s a competent character drama at the center , but it’s carelessly paved over by the lame conventions of the psychological thriller, complete with creepoid lighting in a villain’s apartment and clock ticks worked into the soundtrack. From the opening, Gavin Nichols (Charlie Hunnam) prepares to jump to his death when the clock strikes noon, with the rest being covered by flashbacks. If he doesn’t leap off a building, an extremist, born-again (Patrick Wilson) will execute his wife (Liv Tyler) in a hotel room across the street. The bible says something about killing adulterers and, well, the aforementioned Hunnam has a look that was described on Sons of Anarchy as “Brad Pitt but less gay.”
These and other plot points aren’t fully realized until the end, but I feel safe omitting the spoiler warning since every single bit is telegraphed from the word “jump.” This, because the story only has three characters that matter, while an inconsequential police officer (Terrence Howard) is able to piece together the entire thing in the film’s opening sequence. From an exchange of seven minutes of unrelated discussion, he pulls from the ether “You’re not up here by choice are you?” Just how many suicides turn out to be caught up in a meticulously planned revenge plot? Does the first page of the suicide hotline handbook really say “Discern if a freshly unhinged psychopath has given the soon-to-be-expired a choice between death & dishonor?
With the exception of Liv Tyler’s expressionless caged bird with a Bringing Out the Dead backstory, the actors seem to think they’re in a better film then they are. They bring intrigue to an otherwise bland setting. Hunnam is given a bit more to chew on than he’s ready for, but lets us see his lighter side also. Wilson, as opponent, appears entirely reasonable for a man navigating his Old Testament. He’s more The Stepfather than Helter Skelter and his earnest demeanor gives a balance where the script is uninclined.
Then there’s Terrence Howard. Granted, I’m only familiar with his work after the Oscar winning performance in Hustle and Flow, but where I failed to see much in his overdramatic style before, The Ledge gives him material that can keep up with his uncorked energy. The character is the only one who doesn’t deserve what’s dished out for him, which makes us less invested in the fates of the primary trio. His compelling sideplot doesn’t tie into the theme so his purpose to the main event is just to be the listening ear to Gavin, who should probably be working out a way out of his situation instead of telling his story.
Overall The Ledge feels like the work of a bullheaded amateur. Presumably writer/director Matthew Chapman is fed up with his great great grandfather, Charles Darwin, not yet being taught to all that are raised. He’s created a one-sided indie drama that gives religion the short end of the stick at every opportunity, while its champion is only fun to watch when he isn’t whining his atheist bent (almost never).
The Ledge is one Eden dream sequence away from being really horrible. Instead what we get is a fairly interesting small scale study cut off at the knees by the introduction of a gun. Imagine Good Will Hunting with all of the CIA helicopter chases that were cut from Matt & Ben’s script when Terrence Malick told them they should just focus on the human story after reading an early draft. Compromise the content of an intimate film in favor of commercial interests and you’re film is lucky if it’s played in movie theaters at all.
Overall Score: 4.70 – Terrible. (4s are terrible in many ways. They’re bad enough that even diehard fans of its genre, director, or cast still probably won’t enjoy it at all, and everyone else will leave the theater incredibly angry. Not only are these not worth renting, you should even change the TV channel on them in the future.)