(Published as 'Much Ado about Nothing' in The Sunday Guardian, on 4 February, 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/much-ado-about-nothing)
Cast: Sam Worthington, Ed Harris, Elizabeth Banks, Edward Burns, Jamie Bell
Director: Asger Leth
Remember those early, serialised works of Charles Dickens, with crazy plot twists and improbable coincidences, designed to make Victorian housewives weep for joy? All right, so if you were to spoof those after an all-night substance abuse fest, throw in a heist and adapt it to contemporary New York, chances are you’d come up with something like Man on a Ledge.
When Sam Worthington spends loads of money at a posh hotel and then climbs on to a ledge, the first thing that struck me was a politically incorrect joke about why he’s better off as paraplegic mutant Jake Sully.
Anyway, Nick Cassidy (Worthington) is an ex-cop with a grudge against business tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris) – yeah, I know, it’s like they couldn’t even be bothered to come up with credible names! Apparently, in America, you can get a 25-year jail term for failing to steal a $40 million diamond. And as long as you park yourself on a ledge, ask for a hot negotiator (Elizabeth Banks), have a brother who’d make a better ballet dancer than jewel thief (Jamie Bell, of Billy Elliot fame) and a prospective Latina sister-in-law (Genesis Rodriguez), you can prove one of the most powerful men in the country committed insurance fraud.
This film oughtn’t to call itself a thriller. The over-the-top music and hamming give everything away. Look, a shifty-eyed guy chewing gum during an emergency has to be a bad egg, right? And the best friend has to be the gullible idiot who’ll take you down with him, right? And chicks must wear matching pink lingerie under catsuits, ri...whaa...no, wait. You never figure that one out. Or what Ed Harris is doing in a film like this. Or where a cop from the Big Apple acquired an Aussie accent.
We could’ve taken the nods to cosmopolitan New York (Sikh and sari-clad wife), reality TV (cheering crowds videoing a suicide attempt), ruthless media (nutty reporter lady wielding a mic. from a helicopter) and inefficient NYPD (fugitive comes up with wads of money, tailored suit and masterplan in a month).
But how does one react to a storyline that hinges entirely on implausible occurrences? A security head turns away from a CCTV camera just long enough for a Polaroid to be hung in front of it, a man jumps 200 feet to land safely on an inflatable mattress.
The biggest surprise of the film for me was finding out the director hadn’t taken refuge behind a pseudonym – Asger Leth exists!
Verdict: Someone asks in the beginning, “Why don’t these people just shoot themselves in the head?” I empathise.