A lone man threatening to jump from a high-rise ledge is one those recurring movie images: Gary Cooper did it in Meet John Doe, Tim Robbins did it in unofficial MJD remake The Hudsucker Proxy, Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood both have to contend with jumpers in Lethal Weapon and Dirty Harry.
In the 1951 noir Fourteen Hours, based on a tragic 1938 true story, and the 2011 faith vs atheism melodrama The Ledge, the entire story focuses on a man threatening to leap from a tall building while a kind-hearted cop attempts to talk him down.
Man on a Ledge appears to be a Fourteen Hours/The Ledge remake with heart-in-the-mouth SFX that convincingly put Avatar’s Sam Worthington high in the sky.
A tense opening has 25-year-stretch convict Nick (Worthington) busting out of his dad’s funeral and suddenly appearing on the top floor ledge of the New York Roosevelt Hotel, specifically requesting Detective Mercer (Banks) to show up as the flatfoot who must talk him out of the ultimate misstep.
Recession depression would be too easy, so writer Pablo F. Fenjves (whose CV is littered with wannabe high concept TV movies) adds murder, intrigue and anything else that comes to mind in his grab bag plotting.
So, Nick’s brother Joey (Bell, who gets in a cameo pirouette) and Joey’s smoking gal Angie (Genesis Rodriguez, on bra 'n’ panties eye-candy duty to distract from the plot holes) are executing a heist while Nick is on the ledge.
Elsewhere, a villainous real estate magnate (Ed Harris, gamely taking on the banker/credit crunch subtext) has reason to seethe from the sidelines, Banks’ cop must battle a recent tragedy of her own and something may stink inside the New York Police Department.
All of which makes Man on a Ledge increasingly preposterous, as characters drop IQ points to keep the plot moving and develop near super powers when the story threads need resolving.
Worthington, in particular, goes from wall-clutching bag-of-nerves to sure-footed Spider-Man with remarkable ease when the net closes in.
Yet, for silly, undemanding fun this delivers, with near-miss scrapes and action that riffs on everything from all the Die Hards to all the Mission: Impossibles to Prison Break and even the Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy chuckler Tower Heist.
Worthington and Banks deal efficiently with the unfolding mystery, dangerous news helicopters and gung-ho tactical units, while Bell, Harris, Edward Burns and The Hurt Locker's Anthony Mackie provide slick support.
One pulse racing leap from the building is worth the ticket price alone and while this won’t be remembered as any kind of classic, it’ll do until the next ledge-of-the-seat movie comes along.