Sure, there are a few holes in the story and Sam Worthington has a hard time trying to hide his Australian accent as an ex New York cop accused of grand larceny, but "Man on a Ledge" delivers what it's supposed to: suspense, melodrama and a story that should keep audiences on the edge.
At the movie's outset, Nick Cassidy (Worthington of "Avatar" fame) checks into one of the highest floors of New York City's famed Roosevelt Hotel. For all intents and purposes, it looks like he is planning his suicide. He orders a last supper. "Is it too early for champagne?" he asks the bellhop. Room service delivers lobster, French fries and champagne. After he finishes his meal, he leaves a note on the table, then puts on his coat and steps out onto the hotel window ledge.
In flashback we learn of his daring prison break during his father's funeral. He was serving time in maximum-security prison Sing-Sing for allegedly stealing the rare and expensive Monarch Diamond during a moonlighting job when he was a police officer. He was to have been guarding the jewel for its owner, New York real estate tycoon David Englander (magnificently played by Ed Harris), but Englander claimed that after that night, the gem disappeared and that Cassidy was responsible for its disappearance. Cassidy will tell anyone who'll listen that the smarmy businessman kept it then claimed the insurance money. Now Cassidy is a man with nothing to lose, and he's going to prove his innocence.
The script, credited to Pablo F. Fenjves, wouldn't have seen the light of day if not brought to life by producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura (who produced "Reds," "Transformers" and "Salt"). The story, with its twists and turns, uses human emotion to propel it to a climatic ending. Cassidy, in an effort to reveal the truth, uses himself as a diversion while his plan unfolds to steal back the diamond from Englander. He'll use the police and the New York City crowd to his advantage.
Cassidy also has plans to use another pawn in his game. He tells detectives he will only speak with NYPD negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks). Mercer is a wise choice as she recently lost her credibility; a rookie police officer jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge when she failed to convince him otherwise.
After all these pieces are in place, "Ledge" unravels as expected: Will the jumper make the leap? Will the two inexperienced folks -- Cassidy's brother and his brother's girlfriend -- be able to pull off the heist, when will police discover Cassidy's real identity, and, of course, will he get the jewel away from Englander?
In the hands of another cast and a different director, "Man on a Ledge" could have easily been road kill. Director Asger Leth, a documentary filmmaker helming his first feature film, understands the twists and turns needed to make "Ledge" edgy, even making scenes as far-fetched as one where a skateboard and a body sheet are used to skirt a security camera, and an obligatory bikini scene featuring the alluring Genesis Rodriguez, seem entirely fitting.
Kyra Sedgwick has the most throwaway of parts as an annoying New York television reporter with an obviously fake stage name. "This is Suzie Morales," she says, then rolls her "r's" emphatically for the camera to emphasize ethnicity. Yet her scenes and others with a jolt of comic relief have a purpose in this twisty thriller, and they work.
Meanwhile, Worthington's own self-proclaimed fear of heights adds to the tension, giving it an extra-added boost; many of the shots were filmed on the real ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel, more than 200 feet off Madison Avenue.
Other standout performances include Anthony ("The Hurt Locker") Mackie as Cassidy's police partner Mike Ackerman; the always reliable Ed Burns as detective Jack Dougherty, and Jamie Bell as Nick Cassidy's brother, Joey. You may recognize Bell as the original "Billy Elliot."
"Man on a Ledge" never reaches pure cinematic heights of greatness, but it has its moments and they are enough for a good adrenaline rush. No Red Bull required.