“Today’s the day, everything changes, one way or another” sayeth actor Sam Worthington as disgraced cop Nick Cassidy in the trailer to Man on a Ledge…and it sounds very much like his Jake Sully character at the end of Avatar speaking his final words before becoming one with his mask. If the plot seems suspiciously like Samuel L. Jackson’s disgraced cop taking hostages in 1998’s The Negotiatior, you are correct…that’s almost exactly the story here. Both films are set up in a high rise, the perp chooses – actually demands – which person will “negotiate” before he makes good on his threat – in Samuel Jackson’s case – to kill hostages; in Sam Worthington’s case, to jump off the ledge, and both movies have that bank robbery drama that worked so well for Spike Lee’s Inside Man.
As all these themes involve cops and robbers audiences might send a message that this exercise is going to the well once too many times…despite Man on a Ledge being – like the Negotiatior -actually better than what they appear to be in their respective trailers (or on paper).
It’s good to see Jamie Bell again (he who paired up with Channing Tatum in 2011’s “The Eagle”) and Elizabeth Banks is credible as Lydia Mercer, the negotiatore playing the part Kevin Spacey peformed in the aforementioned Samuel Jackson film. Belief suspension is somewhat necessary to think the person of interest can choose who they will negotiate with, but I surmise that’s easier than asking for an all expense’s paid flight to Argentina.
One also gets the feeling that the Colin Farrell’s Phone Booth from 2002 had some additional impact on this script getting put to celluloid…the focus on one figure, a stifling concept but probably less expensive than Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. The vampire flick’s budget was probably three times that of Man on a Ledge so do the movie math.
Ed Harris is the heavy and when you first cast your eyes on his David Englander character you’ll say “My God how he’s aged since the Abyss”. Yep, old Eddy Harris really IS old Ed Harris now…and the excellent cast could have made for a truly terrific film with a bit more elbow grease put into the script. How could Man On A Ledge not be predictable when it has elements of so many other stories tucked inside the plot and the sub plots? A little Mission Impossible, Diamonds Are Forever and just about every episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent one could imagine.
However, it does make for a bit of engaging entertainment – believe it or not – director Asger Leth doing a fine job with the pacing, the whodunit somewhat amusing despite its thin premise. You’ll invest one hundred and two minutes in this adventure should you choose to watch. Good acting, some quirky twists, with an awkward post script you can ignore. As far as these cookie cutter films go, Inside Man is the one with the most imagination but Man On A Ledge has its moments.
And as for the post script to this review:
According to Box Office Mojo the Phone Booth saga was filmed for a mere 13 million and made over 97 million worldwide…that’s quite profitable…about 46 million of that domestic. The Negotiator didn’t fare as well, 44 mill domestically, a few million more internationally, the production budget according to TheNumbers.com site at about 50 mill. Wikipedia notes that the Negotiator was “loosely based on the pension fund scandal in the St. Louis Police Department in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s”. Perhaps this thinly-veiled re-make or sequel should have looked there for additional inspiration.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.