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Man On A Ledge – Asgar Leth: device that suffers from law of diminishing dramatic returns


Go on - jump!



Man On A Ledge – Asgar Leth

Workmanlike thriller with a central device that generates tension at first then gradually suffers from the law of diminishing dramatic returns.

Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is an ex-cop jailed for stealing a legendary diamond from ruthless tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris). Claiming he was framed, Nick escapes prison and in a carefully planned strategy, sets up camp on the ledge of a hotel near to Englander’s office building in New York.

His threat to jump calls out the full NYPD kit of police psychologist Lydia (Elizabeth Banks) and the usual SWAT team-in-waiting, de rigeur for any Hollywood based film involving the police whatever the offence – from bank heist to parking ticket.

Cue conflict between “I can talk him down” Lydia who blew it last time out when her potential ‘jumper’ dropped in for an actual suicidal dip in the Hudson river; and the ‘grab-him-and-go’ brigade whose testosterone levels make them fidgety after 10 minutes of talk and half a dozen fags.

We find out that Nick has asked for Lydia personally, knowing of her past because he thinks she offers him the best chance of prolonging the stand-off. We then discover that all is not what it seems and Nick’s ledge-lodging is a diversionary tactic designed to tie up the police and block-off the area while his young brother Joey (Jamie Bell) ably assisted by feisty girl-friend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez – no seriously I’m not kidding – ‘Genesis’) are breaking in to Englander’s eminently pregnable strong-room where they believe he has secreted the said legendary diamond that Nick was supposed to have…er…nicked.

Stir in a culpable cop conspiracy and some at times professional but fairly formulaic acting, and you have a passable thriller with a few good moments but a distinct lack of characters you can care about.

Even we vertiginous viewers soon get sort of used to the big-drop, I-want-to–jump uneasiness and of course as we learn very early on that the ledge-lounging is a diversion we know that bar a low level surprise pigeon attack, Nick is going nowhere, then even that tension dissipates.

MOAL has been compared to Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth (2002) but Leth is no Schumacher and Worthington is no Colin Farrell. More importantly, although the ledge thing and the Phone Booth scenario where Farrell is trapped in a phone booth by a sniper, share the claustrophobic quality of focussing the action on a single tense situation they don’t compare suspense-wise. While Phone Booth gets tenser and tenser with a threat both lethal and unseen; theMOAL plot sabotages the tension of its own device.

Nice to see Jamie Bell doing well, though his role here is pretty undemanding with the wise-cracky dialogue between him and his feminist nemesis, Genesis (sorry couldn’t resist it) itself bleeds even the heist of its suspense, making the whole thing seems more of a hoot than a life-threatening raid. It is of course highly technical as they’ve popped down to Hollywood’s Major Heist Kit Shop and bought all the magic stuff that cuts through armoured steel safes etc like butter, detaching the ‘im’ from impregnable in the blink of an eye.

An OK undemanding night out if you’re feeling generous and in the mood for a bit of light belief-suspending. Personally I would have have released it in a quieter part of the distribution season – it’s likely to get buried by the sudden splurge of pre-Oscar goodies.

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