Judge Patrick Bromley is a man on THE EDGE, the edge, THE EDGE, the edge, THE EDGE, the edge, THE EDGE!
You can only push an innocent man so far.
An unfairly overlooked and already-forgotten thriller from earlier this year gets a second chance to make a first impression.
Facts of the Case
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington, Avatar) checks into the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. He orders room service. He drinks some champagne. When he is finished, he climbs out of the window and out onto the ledge, several stories up from the street below. A crowd begins to form. The cops are called. Before long, the entire block has become a circus, all focused on whether or not Nick is going to jump.
What he's doing on the ledge I won't say, except that it involves hung over detective Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks, Role Models), a shady businessman (Ed Harris, The Abyss), Nick's brother Joey (Jamie Bell, The Eagle), his girlfriend, and a high security jewelry vault.
There is hardly a moment in the 2012 action thriller Man on a Ledge that is remotely plausible. And yet the movie works anyway.
Surprised, right? This was a movie no one wanted to see when it was released in the dog days of January 2012. It had a ridiculous premise, a title that was way too on-the-nose, and represented yet another attempt by Avatar star Sam Worthington to establish himself as a movie star. It's the kind of film that seemed destined to play on the USA network on Saturday afternoons for 'til the end of time, between reruns of Psych and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Truth be told, that probably is its fate. But there is a kind of movie that rarely gets made in the contemporary blockbuster climate: The mid-level programmer—a movie that's well-executed, despite its modest ambitions.
After all, movies only need work on their own terms to be good, and Man on a Ledge does that. Like 2004's Cellular, another goofy and potentially stupid B-movie, this one stays true to itself and follows through on its own silliness. Yes, there is a man on a ledge, but that's just the starting point. Where the movie goes from there is where the fun lies. One of its small pleasures (again, do not be fooled: this is a movie of only small pleasures, if you're able to find any at all) is that it takes its time revealing just what's going on, which I will not reveal here. The DVD/Blu-ray jacket does not extend the same courtesy, so if you're hoping to see the movie and want to go in unspoiled, I suggest you avoid reading it.
Mostly, it's the cast that sells the silliness of the story. Sam Worthington remains unproven as a leading man—his box office successes haven't really been the result of his participation, and his failures cannot truly be laid at his feet—but he's totally serviceable here, mostly because he commits to everything that is asked of him. Elizabeth Banks, cast against type, takes an otherwise thankless role and turns it into something special; her banter with both Worthington and fellow cop Edward Burns (playing a policemen who is atypical for a Hollywood movie: he's both antagonistic and professional) is some of the best stuff in the movie. Almost every role is held by someone recognizable and good, whether it's Kyra Sedgwick as a reporter (big ups for her pronunciation of "Morales"), Titus Welliver and Anthony Mackie as fellow cops, or William Sadler in a small part as a bellhop. Ed Harris overplays it as the movie's heavy, and both Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez are irritating in nearly all of their scenes. They're basically the comic relief, stuck inside their own much less interesting movie. They're the biggest weakness.
The longer Man on a Ledge goes on, the more it begins to fall apart. The last act of the movie is completely ludicrous, which is particularly bad considering it didn't really begin from a place of realism. Things are wrapped up too neatly. Characters change their nature to suit the needs of the plot. Had the film done a better job of sticking the landing, Man on a Ledge might be a movie I would recommend without any reservations. Instead, it's one I'll suggest checking out—so long as you know what you're in for.
Man on a Ledge arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Summit Entertainment (via Lionsgate) in a package that's technically accomplished but anemic when it comes to bonus content. The 2.40:1/1080p high definition widescreen image looks very sharp, with realistic colors, excellent fine detail, and no visible digital tinkering. We're at the point now with home video that we expect most new releases to look flawless, and though that's not a word I would use to describe this transfer, I will say it looks as good as it should. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix handles dialogue well, while providing lots of good action movie dimension, whether it's the ambient noise of the crowd on the street, fight scenes, or gunfire. It all works.
Anyone looking to dig much deeper into the movie is going to be sorely disappointed with the bonus content. The special features basically consist of a standard "making of" featurette and the movie's trailer. In one of the more bizarre moves I've seen in a home video release, the trailer is playable with optional commentary by co-star Elizabeth Banks. That's right. If you want to hear what Elizabeth Banks thinks of the trailer for Man on a Ledge, you're in luck. Everyone else is screwed.
Yes, Man on a Ledge is silly. It's also well-acted, light, and fun; something so many action movies fail to be in the age of gritty self-seriousness. While I'm still of the mind that every movie deserves to be seen on the big screen, this one might play even better at home, where it has the benefit of lowered expectations, and viewed for the pleasant surprise that it is.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Summit Entertainment
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