Man on a Ledge
Directed by Asger Leth
Part of the charm of high concept comedy thriller Man on a Ledge is that it can only be discussed in vague terms, lest you spoil one of the many compounding twists that make it so surprisingly engaging and propulsive.
Sure, it's about a man (Sam Worthington) on a ledge trying to prove his innocence for a crime he didn't commit, but what are the specifics of the supposed crime and just how does standing on a ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel serve his purpose?
That's what police psychologist Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) tries to find out in near-real time, prodding her subject for information about his motivations while concocting clever ways of getting fingerprints and other identity signifiers from him. Beyond the sheer mechanics of her role negotiating with jumpers, she's curious as to how her previous on-the-job failures and black sheep persona on the police force relate to his plight, seeing as he specifically requested her.
Since the motivations for each character are masked throughout, we're left guessing how everything fits together, while snickering about the fact that everything relies on the predictability and stupidity of the general population standing on the street below the hotel hoping to see someone die. And while many of the events and character presumptions are entirely ludicrous, the tongue-in-cheek tone of the film serves it well, making self-conscious comedy out of the occasional cliché without dropping the ball on a tension-driven, rapidly paced narrative.
Some of these playful diversions work perfectly, such as a rope and pulley high wire act by a novice that realistically goes clumsily, while others teeter on groan-inducing, such as an incidental trajectory involving a homeless man standing at the bottom of the hotel making predictions about why the mystery man wants to jump (think the heroic dog in any generic disaster movie).
Ignoring the cheese factor and the impropriety of having the comic relief be a feisty Latina caricature, this playful mystery of compounding problems and surprise revelations works quite well as invigorating popcorn entertainment. Just don't expect the overall convenience of the final product to resemble reality in any manner whatsoever and leave any questions about laws or police filing systems at the door.
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