Impressions of … Man on a Ledge

Plot plot plot … Q: What does a screenwriter do when her characters don’t have, erm, characters? A: Give them some schtick.

This must have been a great pitch – man threatens to jump from the 26th floor of a NY hotel, while across the street a daring diamond heist is in motion – but it makes little more than a serviceable thriller: it’s all plot. Tricks were those pulled on the audience: the man isn’t really trying to commit suicide, the fight between the brothers at the father’s grave is staged, the father isn’t really dead (how they faked that one we’ll never know). There are no characters – because there is no subtext. The makers might just have gotten away with it too if they hadn’t felt the need to write so much dialogue. Chief victims were the two jewel thieves who, as boy and girlfriend, were supplied with a constant stream of bickering chatter. You see, although they were pulling off a complex, remarkable skillful heist, we had to understand they weren’t really professionals at all, they were amateurs doing it to exonerate the hero.

Yet there was something naive about this flick that makes me want to go easy on it (as if these weren’t really professionals at all, but amateurs making film to exonerate their brother): the simple (dumb?) morality of sticking it to the big bad businessman (Ed Harris, doing a quick turn as Gordan Gekko), with the good cops saving the day and everyone slapping each other’s back in an Irish bar, the affectionate references to ‘Dog Day Afternoon’, and the fundamental implausibility: the alleged crime was the theft of a rare diamond, innocence would be proved by proving the diamond had never been stolen at all … by stealing it for real – except this would be consistent with guilt more than innocence, so the screenwriters repeatedly told us the ‘diamond was believed to have been cut into pieces and sold’, and the invisible earpiece and microphone worn by the hero on the ledge (while his brother sported the more traditional headset)



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