Man on a Ledge is a fairly stale framed-cop-trying-to-clear-his-name story coupled with a Mission: Impossible-style heist scenario that doesn't bring anything new or exciting to either genre. Director Asger Leth handles the material with a certain level of awkwardness that gives the picture an overly generic feel, yet there's something strangely satisfactory about a movie that foregoes a certain level of flashiness. Leth certainly plays on the average person's fear of heights, utilizing overhead camera angles to create a sense of vertigo, and the story takes a surprising turn at a most unexpected time. Still, Man on a Ledge lacks subtlety, betraying any and all attempts to muster suspense, and that's a shame since the premise itself is a worthy enough one. Aside from a little I-love-New-York flavor and a vague "Occupy Wall Street" theme, the script written by Pablo F. Fenjves does the story little justice, stifling a clean, simple enough idea with excessive flashbacks, a lack of intrigue, and clichéd dialogue.
Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), an ex-cop and wanted fugitive accused of stealing a very expensive diamond, stands on the ledge of the 21st floor of the Roosevelt Hotel, while guilt-ridden, alcoholic detective Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) tries to talk him down. But the longer Cassidy stays on the ledge, the more she realizes that there may be more going on than meets the eye. With time running out before the tactical squad handles the situation, Cassidy tries to prove he's innocent by breaking into a vault owned by a powerful New York businessman (Ed Harris) with the help of his younger brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and Joey's girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez).
True to the film's title, Worthington spends most of the movie on a narrow ledge high above a bustling street; his motives regarding this stunt are explained pretty early on, after which the picture becomes a familiar and pretty dubious heist thriller. We're actually supposed to believe that Cassidy's dim-witted younger brother and his ditzy girlfriend are two expert safecrackers, with Cassidy serving as the mastermind. The heist itself is actually fairly boring -- it's just a simple revenge plot against a villain whose evil scheme is an insurance scam. The practicalities of the heist are also annoyingly inconsistent, which makes it impossible to take this film seriously, but considering there's only so much you can do with a man on a ledge, the break-in is a welcome distraction.
The supporting cast includes Cassidy's ex-partner and best friend (Anthony Mackie), Mercer's rival negotiator (Edward Burns), and a random appearance by Kyra Sedgwick as a pushy television reporter. Unfortunately, the performances are mostly lost on the material and the film ultimately abandons any sense of plausibility for an absurd -- although admittedly more exciting -- finale.