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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

Man on a Ledge is, as you might have guessed, about a man on a ledge—though we do see him in other locales too. Take his morning to-do list before climbing out on that stone precipice: He has a nice breakfast of lobster and fries. He slaps on a crisp sports coat. He writes a cryptic suicide note ("I will exit this world as I entered it. Innocent"). He has just one last task to perform.

Rob the guy across the street.

It might seem a little odd, this burglary-from-the-side-of-a-building strategy of his. John Dillinger certainly wasn't known for climbing out of 22nd story windows to rob banks. Bonnie and Clyde did most of their thieving on foot, guns blazing, not up in the air, arms flailing.

But Nick Cassidy—a one-time cop who's just escaped from prison—is no ordinary thief. See, he's only stealing from rich real estate tycoon David Englander to prove that he didn't steal anything from the guy two years earlier. So with that kind of logic in play, maybe you can begin to see things the way Nick does?

Actually, I'm kinda hoping the sequel follows Nick to traffic court: "Your honor, I did not run that red light. And to prove it to you, I'll run it now … while balancing on a golf club tied to the top of my grandmother's speeding Buick!"

They could call it Man on a Wedge.

I digress. The point is, this guy's on a ledge, serving as a suicidal distraction while his brother and his brother's girlfriend rob Englander. Part of him also hopes that his ledge stint might somehow reveal the no-good shenanigans of a couple of dirty cops. And if he manages to woo the police psychologist who's trying to talk him down, so much the better.

Positive Elements

Nick's dizzying derring-do is dangerous. It's illegal. It's kinda crazy. But at least he has a decent motive: He wants to clear his good name. Make no mistake, Englander did Nick wrong. Nick was sent to jail for stealing something from Englander—something that Englander (Nick believes) still has in his oh-so-impressive safe. Nick wants to break into said safe, take the thing, show it to the world … and then give it back. No blood, no foul, right?

Well, yeah, there are a few fouls, but for now, let's concentrate on the fact that Nick is looking for justice, not ill-gotten gain. And that we can applaud.

Spiritual Content

Nick and Joey attend their father's funeral, where the priest lauds "having faith in God's promise and faith in yourself." Nina wears a cross around her neck and has another cross tattooed on her wrist.

Sexual Content

During the heist, Nina is mysteriously called upon to change outfits, thereby allowing the camera several lingering shots of her in her lacy, hot-pink underthings. When Joey wonders how she got so good at burglary, she asks him facetiously what else he'd like to know about her past: "Boyfriends? Girlfriends? Best sex of my life?" When Joey suggests that he was her "best sex," she begs to differ.

A few folks run through a room where a woman is dressed in her underwear. We hear a reference to hookers. Some joking asides are made to homosexuality. An obviously bra-less woman wears a tank top.

Violent Content

From the title on down, the suggestion of suicide runs throughout Man on a Ledge. In one of the first scenes we see a psychologist ask Nick whether he's ever thought about hurting himself. "Hurting?" Nick says. "No. But killing? Every g‑‑d‑‑n day." When contacted by police, he specifically asks to talk with Lydia Mercer, a psychologist who recently spent 68 straight hours trying to keep someone—unsuccessfully—from jumping off a bridge. When she arrives, Lydia asks why he asked for her. "I just wanted to know that I could get a crowd when I go off," he says. He makes feints at jumping, causing bystanders below to scream.

It's suggested, though, that his apparent suicidal tendencies are more an annoyance or spectacle than tragedy. Several folks comment about how he's tying up traffic. And onlookers even chant for him to jump. ("Gotta love New York," Nick says.) A newswoman and her cameraman make bets as to when he'll actually fall. A businessman says, "Why don't these people just shoot themselves in the head?"

Speaking of shootings, two people are shot to death. And a tactical unit threatens to fire on Nick. Nick gets into several fights, including one in jail that leaves him with an arm in a cast. He and Joey beat each other up at their father's funeral: Nick uses the scuffle to swipe a gun and steal a car—which gets mangled by a train. Characters push one another down and turn over tables. Wind from a helicopter nearly blows a man off the side of the building. A bystander tackles a policeman. Joey and Nina are both roughed up: We see scratches and bruises on their faces.

Crude or Profane Language

At least two uses of the f-word and more than a dozen of the s-word. We also hear between a half-dozen and a dozen each of "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "h‑‑‑." "D‑‑n" is used alone and in conjunction with God's name, which is misused eight or 10 times. Jesus' gets about the same level of abuse. There are two crude references to testicles.

Drug and Alcohol Content

When Nick checks into the room from which he'll eventually crawl out of, he asks the steward whether it's too early to have champagne. Later we see a glass of bubbly on the table as Nick finishes his breakfast. Several main characters gather at a crowded bar. Englander quaffs whiskey. Somebody mentions tequila.

Lydia shares a cigarette with Nick, then pulls the DNA off the used butt. Englander puffs on a cigar and talks about cocaine. A crooked cop is said to have been involved in a coke ring.

Other Negative Elements

While Nick's not in this for the money, Joey's attitude isn't quite so iron-clad. He swipes a massive diamond ring, using it to propose to Nina afterward.

And, as illustrated in my opening thoughts, Nick does break a bevy of laws while trying to show that he didn't break the law. He causes significant property damage. His stint on the ledge likely costs the city of New York hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet he walks away from the whole episode without even a parking ticket.

He also has a bevy of fake IDs at his disposal—IDs presumably made and hidden when he was still a police officer. Nina admits that she used to break into people's houses to try on clothes.


Let's recap: We have an entire film built around the fact that Nick is completely innocent of stealing from David Englander—and is willing to go to outlandish lengths to prove it. And then, right after justice (such as it is) has been scooped up and doled out, Nick's brother steals something from Englander, while former cop Nick and current cop Lydia blithely look the other way.

This is, of course, little more than a throwaway thriller—a credulity-smashing popcorn-muncher with teetering takeaway value. Certainly, if I hadn't spoiled so much of the plot already (no more, though, than has already been revealed in promotional trailers), the film would have a hokey twisteroo charm to it. But while sex and violence quotients here aren't extreme by PG-13 standards, its foul language and loose lessons do get a bit pushy. Not a good thing, that, when you're already out there on a ledge.

Pro-social Content

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Summary Advisory

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Readability Age Range



Sam Worthington as Nick Cassidy; Elizabeth Banks as Lydia Mercer; Jamie Bell as Joey Cassidy; Edward Burns as Jack Dougherty; Pooja Kumar as Nina; Anthony Mackie as Mike Ackerman; Ed Harris as David Englander


Asger Leth ( )


Summit Entertainment



Record Label



In Theaters

January 27, 2012

On Video

May 29, 2012

Year Published



Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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