The independent news organization of Duke University

Man on a Ledge

“Look! It’s a man on a ledge!”

Despite dialogue like this, Man on a Ledge proves to be a decent thriller, though it doesn’t always keep you guessing. The movie centers on Nick Cassidy (Avatar’s Sam Worthington), an accused jewel thief who, in an attempt to prove his innocence, finds himself – that’s right – on the ledge of a building in New York City. Crowds amass on the sidewalks and urge him to jump, videotaping the spectacle on their cell phones, while NYPD officers attempt to talk him down.

It’s all a ruse, of course. As Cassidy distracts the city with his fake suicide attempt, his accomplices are across the street, stealing the diamond that will clear Cassidy’s name. It is unclear how these rather ordinary accomplices – his brother and sister-in-law-to-be – acquired surveillance equipment and detonation devices in the first place, but that, apparently, doesn’t matter. Background details are not a strong point for Man on a Ledge.

The plot is rife with clichés – corrupt cops, malicious business tycoons, a female sidekick wearing a low-cut tank top – but it’s saved by a few good performances, namely Elizabeth Banks and Ed Harris. Although Worthington brings zero energy to his character even while he’s supposed to be dangling 21 stories above the streets of Midtown, Banks, who plays a police psychologist, delivers with a sharp tongue and dynamic intensity. Ed Harris plays his role of the villain with perfection, even if the writing is two-dimensional.

Man on a Ledge is an action film without surprises. And yet, there’s something intriguing about a man standing at the edge of a building, the people below waiting with morbid excitement for him to hit the ground. It isn’t awe-inspiring. Somehow, though, it manages not to fall flat.