There are a lot of good heist movies that make effective use of misdirection to pull off a job while everyone is looking the other way. There are a lot more not-so-good heist movies that also use the same trick. Man on a Ledge is one of the latter.
It starts off innocent enough. Nick Cassidy (played by Sam Worthington) checks himself into a nice, tall hotel early one morning, orders himself a big breakfast from room service, and then calmly steps out the window and onto the ledge many stories above the busy street below. Before too long, someone sees him, and the police are called in. But Nick is no stranger to the police, since he used to be an officer himself, but more recently he’s been on the other side of the law. While Nick was moonlighting as a security escort for the ultra-rich David Englander (Ed Harris), the $40 million diamond they were transporting went missing. Englander got an insurance check for $40 million, and Nick got 25 years in prison.
When his father died, Nick was allowed to attend the funeral, albeit in the company of a couple of armed police officers keeping a close eye on him. But Nick didn’t let the opportunity go to waste, and he managed to escape and stay out of sight until he was spotted on that ledge outside of his hotel about a month later. However, his time outdoors wasn’t as much about killing himself or getting some fresh air as it was about distracting the police (including officers played by Elizabeth Banks, Edward Burns, and Titus Welliver) while his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and brother’s girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) broke into Englander’s high-rise across the street.
Although I was intrigued by the idea behind it, I was really put off by how thoroughly the film turned out to be. It spent most of its time ripping off The Negotiator, in which Samuel L. Jackson plays a police officer who was accused of stealing and must commit a crime and deal with dirty cops in an attempt to try to clear his name. But it does occasionally take a break from that to steal from Die Hard (moving through a high-rise using the elevator shaft and ventilation ducts, stopping a big industrial fan to crawl through, and introducing a sleazy reporter that became too involved with the story) and a little from Mission: Impossible (dangling by a rope from the ceiling to avoid setting off pressure sensors on the floor of a secure room, and the need to fake out temperature sensors). And even when it wasn’t taking from some other much better movie, it was still rather obvious and uninspired. I was disappointed to see Ed Harris in a shockingly one-dimensional role, but I’m guessing that the fault lies more with the writing than the acting.
There are still things to enjoy about the movie. There’s plenty of ridiculousness, and it’s frequently the kind of bad that can be fun to watch. It is particularly ludicrous in its need to tie up every single loose end, and even goes out of its way to address things that didn’t need any further attention. Genesis Rodriguez is rather voluptuous and is often attired in a way that accentuates that, and Elizabeth Banks isn’t too shabby either. And of course you can always play “spot the plagiarism” to help pass the time.