'Man on Ledge' goes off the deep end

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT
  • Updated: January 26, 2012 - 2:40 PM

Look before you leap for the preposterous "Man on a Ledge."

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Elizabeth Banks, left, and Sam Worthington in "Man on a Ledge."

Photo: Myles Aronowitz / Summit Entertainment, Associated Press - AP

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The problem facing the creative team behind "Man on a Ledge" is how to keep the movie exciting in a limited space. It's sort of an inaction thriller. If the man goes off the ledge, it's all over but the cleanup. You can point the camera over the ledge a couple of times for a vertigo-inducing thrill. But since this is a ledge 200 feet above 45th Street in Midtown Manhattan and not the Burj Khalifa a third-of-a-mile over downtown Dubai, and the guy up there is Sam Worthington and not Tom Cruise, the tension is somewhat less than fingernail-gnawing.

The solution to "now what do we do for 103 minutes?" is to pile as many silly distractions into the running time as possible. A news helicopter can come by and hover close enough for its rotor to trim Worthington's sideburns. A snarling real estate tycoon (Ed Harris) whose offices are a block away can be brought in to pound tables as a symbol of the eeeeevil One Percent. A nubile burglar (Genesis Rodriguez) cracking a nearby vault can peel down to her peekaboo underwear in a scene so unapologetically gratuitous that it borders on high comedy. It's pretty much all downhill from there. The best one can say of the screenplay by Pablo Fenjves is that it's less implausible than his earlier work as a staffer on the National Enquirer and ghostwriter of O.J. Simpson's notorious memoir "If I Did It." I am not making this up.

Worthington plays Nick, an NYPD detective imprisoned for stealing a $40 million diamond. Now escaped, he steps out the window in an attention-grabbing ploy to prove his innocence. A serviceable action figure in "Avatar," the last "Terminator" movie and "Clash of the Titans," Worthington seemed primed to be Australia's biggest action star since Mel Gibson. He's less suited to this static, dialogue-heavy role, especially since his character sounds as if he just arrived on the red-eye from Melbourne. Then again, I doubt that Daniel Day-Lewis could deliver lines like, "How far would you go to get back at a man who took everything from you?" "Tintin's" Jamie Bell plays Nick's antagonistic (or is he?) brother, Anthony Mackie plays his supportive (or is he?) police force partner and William Sadler cameos as a room-service valet (or is he?).

First-time feature director Asger Leth contributes TV-quality setups for TV-quality situations, drawing drab, workmanlike performances from most of the cast. Harris, who seems to have directed his own performance, is overblown and cartoonish and impossible to stop watching. He's like a sarcastic, poisonous worm burrowing through the Big Apple.

  • MAN ON A LEDGE

    ★★ out of four stars

    Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.

    RottenTomatoes.com: read reviews

    Showtimes: view listings

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