Stuff gets real when you're teetering on the ledge of a Manhattan high-rise, having flashbacks in 10-minute chunks to keep the audience apprised of what's going on in your noggin. It's tough to blame you if you're, say, Sam Worthington and you overact a bit. Maybe you let your Aussie accent come in and out as you taunt a pair of police officers inside the window and an adoring crowd below. Maybe you dart your eyes so much you resemble the Hamburglar.
Maybe you just zone out on occasion, as Third Eye Blind's "Jumper" courses through your mind.
Whatever the case, Man on a Ledge manages to overcome an iffy performance by Worthington to stay riveting throughout its running time. Kudos to the filmmakers for pitching a super-high concept — 21 stories high, more or less — and wringing every possible bit of suspense from it.
The film opens in a way that makes you want to tap the back of the head of the guy in front of you, saying, "Can you believe that guy just checked into a hotel, jimmied up the window and just stepped out there? I mean, the movie is called Man on a Ledge but holy sh*t, the man is actually on that ledge! Do you think he's really there or it's just a green screen, like what weathermen and Jar Jar Binks use? How do you think he'll get down? The guy's got a secret. What do you think it is? And why does the guy keep talking like Crocodile Dundee?"
Since actually saying all that stuff would get you tossed out by the other 15 people brave enough to pay for a ticket to a new movie that opens in the January wasteland, you've got to twirl those thoughts to yourself as you sit back, grip the arm rests and let Sam's flashbacks fill you in, bit by bit.
Thanks to its unique and convincing plotting, the movie manages to make infinite scenes of a dude just standing there fascinating. The movie is at its best when you don't know what's going on in his head, and you're leaning forward hoping he cuts ties with all the lies that he's been living in. You'd kind of like to see him jump, but then again you totally wouldn't, because that would make the movie far too short, unless the third act consists solely of paramedics doing grisly work with spatulas.
Once the film lets you in on all its mysteries — thankfully doing so subtle way that respects your intellegience and not in a Scooby-Doo manner — it drags a little, but manages to pull you back in every now and again by cutting and verifying that THE DUDE IS STILL UP ON THAT LEDGE!
The filmmakers might be on to something here, that could fix just about every boring movie. Bella and Edward keep playing chess? Show Jacob on a ledge! Sylvester Stallone's stumbling through a monlogue? Have him do it on a ledge! There are Chipmunks, Smurfs or Muppets on screen, and they won't do anything entertaining? Put 'em all up on a ledge, then push!
Here's hoping the ledge movement begins here and now, and historians look back on this great moment that started it all.
Starring Sam Worthington, Edward Burns, Ed Harris and Elizabeth Banks. Written by Pablo F. Fenjves. Directed by Asger Leth. Rated PG-13. 102 minutes.
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