Whenever Sam Worthington, as felon Nick Cassidy, scurries along the outside wall of Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel in "Man on a Ledge," you might start thinking: He's supposedly on the 21st floor, but the highest ledge on the mostly flat-faced Roosevelt is at floor 17. What's more, you can sometimes count a mere 10 windows between Nick and the sidewalk. As a result, Nick often looks rather undizzyingly low to the ground.
There isn't much else to occupy your mind in "Man on a Ledge," a clumsily made thriller with very few thrills. The script feels like a made-to-order job to suit the nifty title -- the author, Pablo F. Fenjves, is a ghostwriter whose credits include O.J. Simpson's book "If I Did It" -- and its threadbare plot won't keep you guessing, caring or even vaguely interested. With cardboard characters and perfunctory acting, "Man on a Ledge" offers little to focus on but mere movie mechanics.
Worthington, further squandering his "Avatar" fame following 2010's execrable "Clash of the Titans," is one of many casting choices here that range from uninspired to ill-advised. He plays Nick as a cliched New York Irish tough, while Elizabeth Banks is unconvincing as the world-weary Det. Mercer, who suspects Nick is staging an elaborate ruse. Edward Burns and Anthony Mackie are generic movie cops; Jamie Bell ("The Adventures of Tintin") and Genesis Rodriguez are thieves who bicker cutely while looting the vault of ruthless tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris).
In his feature-film debut, director Asger Leth (the documentary "Ghosts of Cité Soleil") sends people flying in and out of windows, but he's stuck not only to a ledge but to an atrocious script. "Jump! Jump!" yell the onlookers below, and you may be tempted to join them.
PLOT Perched on a Manhattan high-rise, an escaped convict tries to prove his innocence. RATING PG-13 (violence and brief strong language)
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE Cardboard acting and a threadbare plot make this thriller a waste of a perfectly good title.
Sets and the city: It's really Bethpage
"Man on a Ledge" wasn't Manhattan on a screen: Aside from a few establishing shots, most of its Manhattan was actually in Bethpage, at the recently opened Gold Coast Studios.
In fact, says studio head Lyndsey Lostritto, "Man on a Ledge" was its inaugural shoot. "We opened in September 2010] and they were at our studio October through February, and that included building the sets and filming."
The production's two main sets, she says, were of "the Roosevelt Hotel, both the exterior and the interior; the Manhattan skyline was done green-screen. You could almost have moved into that hotel, it looked so real!"
Jake Myers, one of the film's executive producers, says they also shot some stunt sequences outside the building, with sets built in the parking lot. Additionally, he says the jail sequences were partially done at Sing Sing (in Ossining) and partially at the Nassau County jail in East Meadow.