BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: IFC Films
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
Guy tells his terrible life story on a ledge; cop struggles to find a reason to stop jumper from killing himself.
Charlie Hunnam, Patrik Wilson, Liv Tyler (I know, right?), and Terrence Howard
Matthew Chapman manages to turn the self-righteous and smug believers and non-believers of the world into sadistic, unlikable weirdos. Somebody give this guy the $10,000–The Ledge is America’s Funniest Home Video.
Man, The Ledge is an awkward one. Bad performances from talented people. Awkward, misguided direction. A clunky, goofy script, where lofty, half-baked ideas take precedent over forward movement and well-drawn characters. It’s the type of movie you can only watch with one eye and half a brain, because on the surface, The Ledge seems like a harmless go-nowhere thriller, but upon hearing what these robots are saying, The Ledge‘s overpowering inadequacies push it off the bad pun.
Things start interestingly enough, though. Gavin (Hunnam), a smiley, hotel managing atheist, contently moves through life without much of a care. His job is easy, his relationship are uncomplicated, and his interest in the sanctity of marriage is pretty much non-existent. So when his Christian fundamentalist neighbors move in next door to he and his homosexual roommate, his lack of faith is tested.
But let’s backup. No psuedo-noir would start at the beginning. What would be left to investigate? Like classic noirs, Double Indemnity or Sunset Blvd., except not nearly as good, The Ledge begins right before our narrator dies. Detective Hollis Lucetti (Howard), a cop with a decent record of talking people out of suicide, and fresh off finding out that his kids are not his own, attempts to talk Gavin out of jumping off a building, instilling confidence in Gavin by consistently sounding like he’s about to burst into tears.
Gavin’s trouble start with a cruel twist of fate, when his destiny Shayna (Tyler) and her evangelical, bat-shit crazy husband Joe move in. Gavin sees Shayna everywhere. In his building. On the bus. In his office. It’s like their meant to be together. Well, at least that’s how nobody sees this. Obviously, his neighbor Joe, who imagines himself as the angel of death, who can’t seem to make heads or tails of the Bible’s conflicting passages, has a problem with this and begins following and threatening Gavin, especially after Gavin starts sleeping with her. Joe definitely hates that.
The dilemma among Joe, Shayna, and Gavin lies in everyone’s own self-righteous view of themselves. Joe passive-aggressively prays for Gavin, his adulteress wife, and Gavin’s gay roommate, before taking on more active aggressions, like aggravated assault and attempted murder. Gavin, on the other hand, simply manipulates Shayna into bed, using the ways of the secular. The two of them are obvious extremes: The judgmental fundamentalist and the smug Atheist. Extremes aren’t characters, they’re caricatures, unlikable ones at that.
Chapman’s script is largely to blame for the narratives frequent missteps. His clunky dialogue and ugly characters come from foundational problems. Namely, by not filling his world with actual people, there’s no proper way for us to see either point of view. Both seem as unreasonable as the other; though, Joe jumps the crazy line first. Even still, Wilson isn’t a convincing enough villain to make his exploits frightening or believable, with the character’s leaps in logic noticeably confusing Wilson performance. Meanwhile, Gavin grins through his teeth at everyone, making them feel stupid. Hunnam remains indecisive as to whether or not we’re supposed to like this character, so he lands somewhere between Ferris Bueller and a wet towel. Though, if Chapman means for his lead to be the most unlikable person in the picture, then mission accomplished, because he’s basically the worst.
A film filled with unlikable characters is nothing new to the genre. In fact, much of film noir relies on our incrimination as spectators in the crime. Yet, Chapman’s awkward direction leaves out the style. A skewed frame and awful lighting make the characters look artificial, ruin the actor’s performances, and give the film a cheapness that doesn’t help the already struggling production. There’s nothing within the direction that expresses any characters feelings. Rather, Chapman’s heavy-handed script wedges ideas into the plot so bluntly, the viewer need not apply one iota of brain power to understand it.
The Ledge postures as a movie more clever than it is. It’s themes of belief and fidelity never amount to much more than pretentious arguments made by two whackos. Any loftier implications of the film’s debate about the existence of God literally falls apart through weak performances, overlong monologues, and bad characters. So much of the film feels like a missed opportunity, but, really, the only interesting thing about it is the concept. Note to Hollywood: Remake this movie with a better script.
There’s not too much to write home about from The Ledge. The film isn’t a total failure but, boy, is it messy. The interviews on the disk offer insights into what Chapman and his actors looked to create in the film. Chapman had an idea “a love story wrapped in a philosophical thriller,” which probably about as obnoxious of an idea as you can get. Getting these insights, though, the story seems like one that just simply got away from Chapman.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars