Man on a Ledge

by Susan Patterson

Ex-cop Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) checks into a room with a view in the Roosevelt Hotel, New York City, under a assumed name, eats a last meal, wipes the room clean of his finger prints, writes a note, and steps out the window and asks for police negotiator Laura Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) by name. A swift flashback sets up his relationships with his former partner Mike Ackerman (Anthony Mackie), who, like every fictional cop partner, believes in his innocence, and his no good brother kid brother Joey (British actor Jamie Bell not looking very much older than when he was Billy Elliot). A graveside altercation at his father’s funeral sees Cassidy overpower his guards, punch out Joey, steal his car, and crash into a train.  Wouldn’t any of us be standing on a ledge after a day like that?

Cassidy tells Mercer that it’s the day that everything changes one way or another, and that he is ready to die. It doesn’t take long for her to unpick that he has an ulterior motive, and that she begins to realise that he is no ordinary jumper. He hasn’t chosen her by accident; she was the negotiator when another cop jumped to his death, and her colleagues despise her for it.  It’s not giving much away to say that all is not what it seems, and it won’t take much Googling to find out that Cassidy is not only out to prove his innocence, but I went into this blind, only knowing that it was about a man, a ledge, and a heist, and my enjoyment of Man on a Ledge was greatly enhanced by this ignorance.

Man on a Ledge is Asper Leth’s first drama after Haitian set documentary Ghosts of Cité Soleil (2006), and scriptwriter Pablo F Fenjves first feature film, at the age of 58, although he has spent the past two decades writing TV movies.  He is also notable for being a witness at the O J Simpson trial.  It’s easy to pick holes in his script; Cassidy wipes all his prints from the cutlery, and then opens the window with his bare hands, prints which the police then miss when they are seeking his identity. None of them recognise that he’s an ex-cop, or an escaped prisoner, and razor sharp Mercer does not  notice that he has an earpiece in.  The heist itself is laughable, the thieves being almost comically amateurish, although one has the nicest, and skimpiest, pink underwear that I’ve seen in a film for a long time.  Plot twists hang on luck and coincidence. The suspense comes from the gradual layering of what crime Nick was convicted up, why that ledge with that view, and who else, if anyone, is in on the heist.  I suspected everyone from the negotiator, to the ex-partner.  Setting aside my disbelief, this is where the film worked for me.  Comparing this to something like Inception (2010), which its poster alludes to, it comes out better, because Inception set up a complex world, and when the story no longer fitted those rules, it changed them. Man on a Ledge sets up a ludicrous premise, but it follows it through, and there is much to enjoy here, even if it’s only the pink bra and pants.

Man on a Ledge goes on general release on 3 February.

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