Effects work ‘frighteningly well’ but ‘premise is so devoutly ridiculous,’ critics say.
By Kara Warner
If your impressions about the new action thriller “Man on a Ledge” are based on the film’s very-literal title, you’re very likely correct in assuming to know a decent amount about the film before entering the theater. “Ledge” is the story of ex-cop and fugitive Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), whose seemingly obvious suicidal plan to jump off a building is slowly revealed to be something much more.
Thus far, the critical reception for the film is very different from initial audience reactions. The Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer has “Ledge” at a 22 percent fresh rating from critics, versus a 65 percent fresh audience rating.
Read on to see what has the two viewing bodies so divided as we sift through the “Man on a Ledge” reviews:
“It’s an arresting image, Sam Worthington out on that 40th-story ledge. He’s a fairly tough-looking guy, after all, and we know him best as the tooth-gritting blockbuster hero of ‘Avatar’ and ‘Clash of the Titans,’ so it’s head-spinning to see the man’s beefy figure as a speck hovering so precariously close to New York’s infinite sky. The camera swirls around Worthington’s disgraced former cop Nick Cassidy, inching out past that thin strip of architecture, then back in. What if he trips, or jumps? For a while, anything seems possible, and it’s both exhilarating and terrifying. Then the wool comes off, and it’s clear that director Asger Leth and screenwriter Pablo Fenjves have ambitions considerably less grand than their protagonist’s perch. Cassidy’s ledge game — with all the studio-unfriendly moral ambiguities it entails — is just a con, a photo op for the crowds, and Nick’s apparent desire to exit the material world is a front. What he truly, passionately wants to do is steal some jewelry.” — Andrew Lapin, NPR
The Impact of Practical Effect
“I, on the other hand, was gripping anything in reach, palms dripping, thinking I might not have survived the effects had they been 3-D. Though there were other production sites, serious time was spent actually shooting on that 14-inch ledge wrapping the 21st floor of the Roosevelt Hotel to create the vicarious sensation of being there. Which worked frighteningly well, at least for the vertiginous among us. Oh, that the actual human dynamics of the unfolding story could have been as dramatic, as on the edge as that ledge.” — Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
“Mr. Leth, the son of renowned Danish documentarian Jorgen Leth, has directed only one other film, ‘Ghosts of Cité Soleil,’ a highly stylized doc that revealed a soul yearning to breathe free of nonfiction. He has an instinct for weaving sturdy narrative fabric out of intersecting plot lines. … Amid the hoopla, Mr. Leth takes sobering assessment of media-circuses and mob mentalities: The people down below taking cellphone pictures, the ones yelling ‘Jump!’; the callous nature of cops for whom it’s all routine. There’s the occasional goofy grace note: Kyra Sedgwick, playing a voracious and obviously Anglo television reporter named Suzie Morales, rolls the ‘R’ in her surname as she signs off, just in case someone missed the point (we’ve all heard it). In another scene, Mr. Leth takes such pains to strip the shapely Ms. Rodriguez down to her underwear that audiences, who may well be leering, will also be laughing at how obvious it is.” — John Anderson, Wall Street Journal
The Final Word, Pro/Con Style
“Director Asger Leth, making his U.S. feature-film debut with ‘Man on a Ledge,’ keeps the pace brisk and never allows the tone to stray into self-seriousness, which is crucial for a movie whose premise is so devoutly ridiculous. The script, from Pablo F. Fenjves, provides enough feints and twists to keep us engaged. Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez aren’t the most believable of couples, but there’s a screwball charm to their comic routine as amateur thieves charged with aiding Nick’s scheme. (Leth can’t resist inserting an entirely superfluous — but nonetheless greatly appreciated — scene of the criminally gorgeous Rodriguez stripping down to a thong in the middle of a heist.) Worthington makes for a likable populist protagonist, even if his Australian accent betrays him on copious occasions, and Harris’ disturbingly emaciated frame lends an added menace to his devious plutocrat villain.” — Thomas Leupp, Hollywood.com
“Like last year’s action comedy ‘Tower Heist,’ ‘Man on a Ledge’ becomes something of a parable of the 99 percent, with Cassidy initially an object of prurient interest for the massed crowds below, then becoming a blue-collar folk hero. That gives the movie at least a frisson of contemporary relevance, but the filmmakers blow that advantage with plot and characterization that require not just a suspension of disbelief but a suspension of eye-rolling reflexes and the nagging impulse to burst into derisive laughter.” — Ann Hornaday, Washington Post
Check out everything we’ve got on “Man on a Ledge.”
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