So we’ve got the misunderstood-man-in-a-precarious-situation dynamic of Phone Booth, but none of the innovation. Instead of studying our hero’s psyche by simply watching him as the day unfolds – still Colin Farrell’s shining (Hollywood) moment – Man on a Ledge shoehorns in some of everybody’s favourite plot device: flashback narrative.
Then we’ve got the I-want-that-one-specific-cop-I-can-trust aspect of The Negotiator, but who the hell thought it’d be a good idea for Elizabeth Banks to play Kevin Spacey in this scenario? Don’t get me wrong, she’s cute and can act – loved her as the psychotic nympho in 40 Year Old Virgin – but I don’t want her talking me down off a ledge unless either Judd Apatow or Kevin Smith are writing her lines.
Finally we’ve got the Mission: Impossible/Italian Job scenes with Jamie Bell. What happened to that kid? Last time I saw him he was making Hayden Christensen look good in Jumper(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maMBKOZDDm0). These parts are pretty good, if absolutely fucking ridiculous.
It’s not giving anything away to tell you that Bell plays Ledgeman(not in the good way)’s brother. Or that Ledgeman isn’t actually suicidal. He’s causing a major ruckus right across the street from the building his brother is concurrently breaking into (with improbably skilful girlfriend in tow) in order to keep attention away from said building long enough for brother Bell to find proof that Ledgeman is innocent of the crime he’s “about to jump off a building over”.
It’s preposterous. As far as I could tell from the backstory, the brother is a regular guy with a girlfriend who used to “break into houses and shit”, and here he is bypassing sophisticated security systems and Tom Cruising his way through ventilation shafts in order to burglarise an impenetrable vault and crack the top-of-the-line safe within. But fuck it – Jamie Bell is awesome, and fun to watch – so I’m gonna let him have this one. Better if the girlfriend wasn’t there though – Zero chemistry and a useless character.
It’s an alright movie. Sometimes the dialogue is spot on, character-authentic and fresh, other times it’s lame, cliché and insultingly expositional. The exchanges between Bell and Ledgeman are the highlight, but again this is mostly down to Bell’s personal magnetism. Where’s Jamie’s flashback?
You might have noticed I havn’t mentioned the actor who played Ledgeman. That’s either because he was so in character that I couldn’t see him as anything but a Man on a Ledge, or because Sam Worthington literally cannot act and has the dead eyes of a gay shark.
Ed Harris and Titus Welliver do a bang-up job as the primary antagonists, though that’s pretty much a go-to role for both of them now. William Sadler has great fun playing the inexplicably helpful bellhop.
The world and the press watching below are suitably unsympathetic, alternating between chanting for him to jump and jostling for some face-time with one of the camera crews – which makes their turn upon discovering the true nature of Ledgeman’s plight all the more convincing.
For all its faults, the man-on-a-ledge diversion is actually a pretty clever idea. It’s fun to watch Ledgeman manipulate the macabre crowd – miming jumping in order to produce a swell of noise from the mob, masking Bell’s explosive entry into the action; or throwing fistfuls of cash into the throng, causing a mad scramble that impedes the security detail below – buying Bell some much needed time to make his escape. Plus, silly as it is, Ledgeman’s ultimate moment of redemption – his Shawshank moment, if you will – is tremendously satisfying.