Review: Man on a Ledge (PG) ***

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Unlike Snakes on a Plane, which did exactly what it said on the tin, Man on a Ledge is a quietly subversive thriller in which the main event is not the titular character threatening suicide but instead a carefully concealed robbery going on nearby.

Aussie heartthrob Sam (Avatar) Worthington is Nick Cassidy, the jailed ex-cop who escapes from custody at his father’s funeral and clambers onto the ledge of a New York building.

Surveying the growing crowds below, he demands the attention of a police psychologist and unburdens himself to her.

What it’s about, why he’s there and whether he will jump are the questions Detective Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) struggles with.

In the meantime Nick’s brother (Jamie Bell) is worming his way into a separate building to recover something that will prove Nick’s innocence and clear his name.

Man on a Ledge is both preposterous and hugely enjoyable in a guilty pleasure kind of way. It’s a film about distraction – and Nick is the focus. All eyes are on him: police, crowds and cadaverous millionaire David Englander (Ed Harris) who knows more than he is letting on.

The elaborate nature of it all means believability is tested to the limit but nonetheless it is an engaging adventure. Naturally Mercer begins to smell a rat as TV news crews in helicopters fly rather too close and the crowd bays for Nick’s blood. Something else must be going on – but what?

This is one of those wink-wink capers where much of the action is telegraphed way in advance. Bizarrely Worthington has the least showy role – that is left to Bell, Harris and newcomer Genesis Rodriguez as Bell’s slinky girlfriend.

In all respects a ‘B’ movie, Man on a Ledge is also an ensemble piece with people like Ed Burns (wasted as a cop) and Kyra Sedgwick flitting in and out.

William (The Shawshank Redemption) Sadler also crops up and has more of a key involvement than one might suspect.

The combination of vertigo, SWAT teams, a good-versus-evil sub-plot, banter between Worthington and Banks and the ever-present “will he or won’t he?” question for the watching crowds make this an intriguing little drama.

The various pieces don’t necessarily add up to much but, taken as a whole, it’s fun. And total baloney.