In one of the two bonus features included on the Man on a Ledge Blu-ray, Elizabeth Banks provides a commentary track to go with the trailer (one can’t watch the trailer without the track, but that’s a different matter entirely). One imagines—one hopes—that the entire commentary track is done tongue in cheek (some things she says are certainly jokes) and that she knows how unfortunate a film she is promoting . Banks explains how the entire movie starts off as one thing (the tale of a potential suicide, presumably) and ends up as another (a heist). That, unquestionably is what the film is meant to do, but it isn’t actually what goes on.
Directed by Asger Leth, Man on a Ledge stars Sam Worthington as the titular man on said ledge and Banks as the policewoman meant to talk him down, the woman he specifically requests. Where exactly one ought to start off discussing the problems is unclear, so perhaps we’ll take them as a whole.
From the moment the film opens, there’s no real question about who is good and who is evil and what is a set up and what isn’t. We’re constantly given the impression that we are supposed to be tricked and confused about what is happening, but it never actually works out that way. From staged conversations to staged fights to inane plans to lies to other characters to lies to the audience to ill-conceived, ill-executed schemes by both the characters and those crafting the film, from start to finish there isn’t a moment in the thriller which either thrills or even creates more than the smallest amount of suspense.
Worthington plays Nick Cassiday, a cop who has been framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Nick is working with his brother, Joey (Jamie Bell), and his brother’s girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), to prove his innocence. Now, as an example that gives away no plot but shows, in part, how poorly thought out the film is, at one point Joey tells Angie that she need not help him, that Joey can do his part of the job alone. It is a terribly sweet sentiment, not wanting to see your girlfriend go to jail, but as the viewer discovers later on, Joey’s portion of the job does in fact totally and completely require two people – there is no way Joey could ever do his part without help. The film doesn’t seem to indicate that Joey is aware of this, and things are still going according to plan when two people are required, so what then can the audience make of it? The choices seem to be that either the script–the screenplay is by Pablo F. Fenjves–assumes the audience isn’t paying attention or doesn’t care, or perhaps that things changed after the draft of the conversation was written and no one bothered to go back and clear up the issues.
There are several other instances like this throughout the film, and they all add to one’s sense of disappointment. But, they’re not the single most disappointing thing about the film.
No, the worst part of proceedings is that it is impossible to believe that any decent-sized group of random individuals could possibly come together and engage in such one-sided, oblivious group-think mentality. From the way Nick talks to Lydia Mercer (Banks), five minutes into their conversation no one could believe that she might think for a minute that he’d jump. From the way Nick interacts with the people on the ground it is inconceivable that they might think he’d jump. And yet, everyone seems to accept this obvious fiction for no reason other than the fact that nothing else could happen in the film if they didn’t.
With Ed Harris, Ed Burns, Kyra Sedgwick, Anthony Mackie, and Titus Welliver in supporting roles alongside Banks and Worthington, there certainly isn’t a lack of star power or acting credibility. But, before the end of the film, one stops wondering why they weren’t given more to do and begins wondering why they bothered to appear in the movie at all.
Special features for Man on a Ledge include the aforementioned commentary trailer and a featurette on what went into filming the ledge sequences. From the intro graphics, one gets the sense that had Man on a Ledge been a theatrical hit, it would have been one a larger group of pieces. In point of fact though, it is actually a fascinating piece on how they were able to film actually ledge sequences in New York City and combine them with green screen work to make a seamless look for the movie. It is well worth one’s time, even if the film itself isn’t.
With a muted color palette, Man on a Ledge doesn’t feature any eye-popping, rich colors. However, it is still a beautiful presentation. The camera work and scenes above the New York streets are wonderfully realistic and well-presented. The details apparent on the side of the building which surround Worthington are numerous, as are textures. Darker sequences in the film don’t lose anything for their being dark, with nothing lost in shadow. While the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack does a brilliant job of placing the viewer right up there on the ledge with Worthington or in the streets with the crowds or anywhere else within the film.
As for Banks’ commentary track on the trailer, after watching the movie, one wonders if it’s there because the people behind the film or its release figured no one would ever watch the movie twice. Either that or maybe they decided to call it a comedy after the fact. Make no mistake though, Man on a Ledge isn’t intentionally a comedy, it’s meant to be a thriller. In point of fact, it isn’t either, it is simply a film that falls onto the pavement with a thud.