In the new Sam Worthington movie, the Aussie actor proves nothing so much as his total inability to maintain an American accent for anything longer than half a phrase. He plays Nick Cassidy, an ex-cop thrown in Sing Sing for the theft of a magnificent, enormous diamond from an obnoxious, balding tycoon (Ed Harris). After the film’s yawn-inducing standardised overhead establishing shots of NYC, we get into some just as bland set-up: our hero escapes from police custody on the one day he’s let out (for his father’s funeral); goes straight to a swanky hotel in mid-town Manhattan; orders a sumptuous last supper (for breakfast); climbs out through the window onto the ledge, and waits for the city to take notice. He’s up there to prove that Harris’ tycoon—who owns the hotel and has his offices, which house his precious jewels, across the street—set him up, and that he never should have been behind bars in the first place (“I will enter this world the way I entered it: innocent,” reads his quickly scrawled suicide note). A middling crowd gathers in the bisecting streets below; for the film’s 85 or so remaining minutes, it never expands or shrinks in size.
Enter a cavalcade of expendable, poorly written supporting characters: a shrill, obnoxious reporter (played by Kyra Sedgewick), covering every minute of this exhilarating breaking story, continually pretends like she knows what’s going on. Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) pops in and out of the story as Nick’s ex-partner; Ed Burns plays another cop, and Elisabeth Shue is the lady of the moment: the negotiator, whom Nick requests by name because he’s seen her work her magic in the past. (The great character actor William Sadler also has a small role.) Here’s the sub-plot twist: Nick is perched on the ledge on the 25th floor not because he wants to jump, but as a distraction so that his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend—played by someone called Genesis Rodriguez, whose only ability/purpose seems to be to look good in lingerie—can, however implausibly, execute a Mission: Impossible-esque diamond heist across the street as retribution for Nick’s wrongful imprisonment.
Directed seemingly only for the paycheck by Jørgen Leth’s son Asgar, and written by some hack called Pablo F. Fenjves, this is the kind of disposable Hollywood garbage that, once you start to think about its many faults—glaring plot holes in the script, atrocious casting (an Australian actor who, unlike his British offsider here, Jamie Bell, is totally unable to maintain an American accent, much less act)—falls to pieces very quickly. Cinematographer Paul Cameron—whose past work includes Dominic Senna’s entertaining if junky techno-thriller Swordfish, and Michael Mann’s brilliant noir Collateral—seems to have been asleep at the wheel: he shot the film in Scope but paid apparently zero attention to framing and composition. The colour timing—all putrid greenish yellows—is equally revolting (except in the heist scenes across the street, which, in a steel-cobalt mix, are comparably pleasant). Composer Henry Jackman (no relation to Hugh) has, from the sounds of it, mashed together a bunch of extant action-thriller cues and percussive stings and submitted them as his own work.
On a technical level, the film is a mess. The writing is beyond sub-par*, and the acting is barely passable (especially from the leads). The film’s tagline is “You can only push an innocent man so far.” If you go and see this movie, you’ll want to push him right off just about as soon as he gets out there.
Man on a Ledge is in cinemas today.
*A pseduo-homeless guy in the crowd, nominally a 99%er, who—in a reference that just about no one in the film’s target demographic will understand—at one point yells “Attica!”, is, in a way, one of the best drawn characters.
An aside: like Tony Scott’s Unstoppable, Man on a Ledge uses scan-lines to delineate television sequences. I’m sure there are members of the audience who are too stupid to tell the difference (despite banners, bugs and tickers all over the screen) between what’s movie and what’s TV-in-movie, but, come on, this is 2012: TV hasn’t looked like that for almost ten years.