In “Man on a Ledge,” Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is a former cop, convicted of stealing a $40 million diamond from David Englander (Ed Harris) a powerful real estate developer. Sentenced to Sing Sing, Nick has to deal with other inmates aware of him being a cop, and a strained relationship with his family. When he learns that his father is dying soon, his former partner, Mike Ackerman (Anthony Mackie) arranges for him to get to the funeral.
At the graveside, Nick gets into a fight with his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and in the scuffle gets a gun away from one of his guards and flees. Now free, rather than running for the border, Nick decides to steal the diamond he knows Englander still has and prove that he was set up.
If this were 1987, Worthington could have been replaced with Mel Gibson and he seems to channel a bit of “Lethal Weapon” cop Martin Riggs, at the start. Then things turn. The escape and plan to steal the diamond have been meticulously planned while Nick was in prison. The act of standing on the ledge is both a distraction and a means to an end, the goal being to have so much media attention that, when the diamond is revealed, Nick will be innocent in the public eye.
With almost “Mission Impossible” detail, the plan involves Joey and his girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) doing the legwork while Nick guides them and adds levels of distraction as needed from his perch on the side of a hotel across the street. It’s hard to tell if Joey and Angie are professionals or incompetents as they get into and out off various situations.
Inside the hotel, Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), an infamous police psychologist requested by Nick, attempts to talk him off the ledge. Nick meticulously hides his identity, leaving Mercer guessing as to his motives. Over time he earns her trust and allows her to find out who he is at the same time he is becoming something of a hero to the crowds watching below.
With the revelation of his identity, Nick reveals the reasons he requested Mercer, which include the fact she is an outsider and therefore not likely to be involved in the corruption that has given Englander some measure of control of the police. Mercer has to decide between trusting Nick or the rest of the assembled police.
Ignoring large plot holes like the apparent lack of snipers in New York City SWAT, and the easy manipulation and predictability of Englander, there are plenty of smaller holes to keep a mystery-thriller purist cringing in their seats. Worthington may have done a passable job acting like a bad actor, and Banks may be convincingly moody, but something about their performances together seems too convenient and contrived. My biggest disappointment has to be Ed Harris. David Englander is the villain, but the best villains exhibit at least a bit of humanity. Harris acts like a psychotic and looks like Gollum, but his performance is so extreme it is completely unsympathetic.
In all, I think “Man on a Ledge” would have made a great one-hour episode of “Mission Impossible” (perhaps Martin Landau on a Ledge?), but in full movie format, there is not enough to really hold on to. I’m pretty sure renting a couple seasons of “Mission Impossible” would be more rewarding.