The Ledge (2011)
★ / ★★★★
Hollis (Terrence Howard), a cop, just found out that he has always been infertile. This means that the kids he supposedly has with his wife (Jaqueline Fleming) are not his biologically. Still processing the news, he is informed that a man wishes to jump off a building. The person about to commit suicide is called Gavin (Charlie Hunnam). Gavin tells Hollis that he has been instructed to jump to his death at noon. If he fails to do so, another will die on his behalf.
“The Ledge,” written and directed by Matthew Chapman, lacks punch because the thriller and dramatic elements fail to mesh in such a way that reels in our interest from the beginning all the way to the end. I stopped caring somewhere in the middle.
The majority of the story is told using flashbacks. We meet Gavin’s new neighbors, Joe (Patrick Wilson) and Shana (Liv Tyler), a married couple who strictly hold onto their belief in God and what is written on the Bible. Over dinner, conflict arises when Joe assumes that Gavin and Chris (Christopher Gorham), roommates, are gay. Only one of them is gay, which is Chris, but Gavin, an atheist, cannot help but feel offended by such bigotry. The scene sets up Gavin and Joe’s tug-of-war between who is “right.”
As much as I am interested in philosophical musings involving faith, or lack of one, the arguments they bring up are not anything new. As their discussions evolve into altercations, I found myself thinking about a documentary I saw many years ago involving religious radicals condemning viewers who do not believe in God that they would surely go to hell. I was reminded of those specific images because, to me, those emotions–specifically the level of animosity–are real. The negative tension between Gavin and Joe feels too much like a poor simulation.
Perhaps it has something to do with the acting. While Wilson is more subtle in expressing his frustrations–a wrinkling of the forehead, constantly looking down, a forced smile–Hunnam chooses to be more explosive. It might have worked better if the latter is calm, especially for someone who is comfortable with his atheism.
And then there is a messy subplot involving Gavin’s increasing attraction to emotionally fragile Shana. Gavin thinks it is his duty to rescue her, a former drug addict, from the grip of her husband’s iron fist. So Gavin tries to seduce her. I found the whole charade amusing, but it is clearly not meant to be. The writing fails to provide a good enough reason to convince us that the protagonist is ultimately doing the right thing. Sure, Joe is a controlling jerk of a husband, but whatever happens inside Joe and Shana’s home is really none of Gavin’s business.
“The Ledge,” rife with faux-intellectual debates, lacks common sense and it is prone to heavy-handedness. Even the act of jumping off the ledge symbolizes a leap of faith.