Man on a Ledge

What it's about:

After being falsely imprisoned for stealing a diamond, an ex-cop-turned-fugitive threatens to jump to his death from the top floor of a Manhattan hotel. As a disgraced hostage negotiator tries to talk him down, it quickly becomes obvious that things are a lot more complicated than they may first have appeared – especially when they realise that the hotel is across the street from the heavily-fortified bank, in which the diamond's original owner stores his most valuable possessions.

What we thought:

If last year's Tower Heist was a heist film dressed as a comedy about the evils of capitalism then Man On a Ledge is a heist film disguised as a drama about a wrongly convicted man trying to prove his innocence. Except, of course, that once you get past the first half hour, Man On a Ledge quickly proves to be every bit as silly and fatuous as Stiller's breezy caper – only decidedly less witty and entertaining. It's certainly enjoyable enough on its own terms but, fittingly enough, Man On a Ledge struggles to maintain a foothold on the tightrope it walks between competence and mediocrity, even as it veers wildly in tone between serious drama and daft thriller.

As the action progresses it becomes clear that what the film really wants to be is a snappy, feel-good action-thriller and, to its great credit, it does that reasonably well and, by the end, successfully tricks you into believing that it was a far more proficient and enjoyable film than it actually was. It can also, I suppose, be argued that director Asger Leth intentionally used the relative grittiness of the film's opening act to keep the viewer as in the dark as its supporting players are but the "twist" is both too obvious and too flippantly executed to fully justify the tonal uneasiness.

Man On a Ledge simply needed a more experienced director to pull off its subterfuge and trickery – and a marketing team less prone to giving away the film's central secret – but that's not to say that there isn't much to admire about Leth's feature film directorial debut. He may be saddled by a script by Pablo F Fenjves, a veteran TV-movie writer whose less than impressive CV comes through all too clearly in the film's flat characterisation and pat dialogue, but he clearly has an eye for directing elaborate and exciting action set pieces.

He may need some time to work on his storytelling abilities but Leth is already far ahead of many experienced action directors (*cough* Michael Bay *cough*) in his ability to produce set pieces that are as easy to follow as they are exciting – and in this post-Bourne action climate, that's no small feat.

It undoubtedly also helped Leth that he found such a solid cast for his first film. At this point only Jamie Bell can truly be considered "A-list" but the rest of the supporting cast is filled with experienced craftsmen like Anthony Mackie, Edward Burns and the constantly impressive – and rather undervalued – Elisabeth Banks.

In the central role, Sam Worthington proves to be a solid, likeable leading man but, once again, he is hardly going to challenge the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Ryan Gosling when it comes to sheer acting chops. The only real casting misstep is Genesis Rodriguez who is more than qualified to play the part of supernaturally hot eye-candy but not much else – to be fair though, she is certainly done no favours by being stuck with both a thankless, essentially prurient role and the film's most embarrassingly lame dialogue.

It may make you gain a new-found appreciation for Tower Heist - and it's clearly not a patch on Oceans 11 - but for all of its many flaws, Man On a Ledge is a perfectly passable bit of throwaway entertainment that may possibly, if we're lucky, have introduced the world to a promising new action director.

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