Though the credits do not list the original incarnation of "The Ledge," I'm going to assume this material was at one point intended for the stage, where its mix of monologues and hysterical characters could be broadly articulated by live actors. As a film, it's an inconsistent, flavorless psychological thriller, trying desperately to come across provocative when it's truly about as deep and challenging as a television movie.
Climbing onto the ledge of an apartment building, Gavin (Charlie Hunnam) is prepared to jump, waiting for an unseen cue to end his life. Detective Hollis (Terrence Howard) is assigned to talk him down, striking up a rapport with the troubled man, hoping to unearth the root of his troubles through conversation. Gavin happily obliges the request, detailing his complicated experiences with fundamental Christian neighbors Joe (Patrick Wilson) and Shana (Liv Tyler). Finding himself drawn to Shana's doe-eyed sadness, Gavin encourages infidelity, embarking on an affair with the conflicted woman. When Joe learns of the coupling, his response challenges the limits of Gavin's devotion, while Hollis has to deal with his own domestic problems that oddly parallel the jumper's predicament.
"The Ledge" is a wooden picture that doesn't feel authentic in any shape or form. It's an intimate story of personal beliefs perverted into a silly semi-thriller, utterly dependent on the actors to sell the ludicrous script. It aims to be confrontational and sinister, but "The Ledge" primarily frustrates, perfectly content to establish conflicts it has no intention of intelligently solving.
Looking to press a few viewer buttons with the devout character of Joe, "The Ledge" imagines a man of God hounding a non-believer, with Gavin losing all interest in faith after a personal tragedy removed his capacity for concern. The film's central concept is morality and how it shifts position and intensity as sin piles up, though writer/director Matthew Chapman is more interested in staging speeches to poke at his ideas, preferring verbal fire over a vigorous visual presentation of internalized churn. The dialogue is artificial, solidifying moral lines that will come to be crossed, sold through lackluster characters who rarely think before acting.
"The Ledge" is frustrating, often outright dull, with Gavin's pickle too silly to take seriously. Better is Hollis's story of fraudulent fatherhood, but that subplot is minor at best, stuffed into the corners of the film to throttle the tension. After all, Gavin's on the ledge, ready to die. His unexpectedly callous tale of seduction takes center stage. Too bad it's a snoozer, despite Hunnam's tortured read of Gavin's mistakes. At least he enjoys a few poetic moments of doubt. Tyler and Wilson are handed only stereotypes to play, with the twosome detached from the emotional requirements of the script.
Chapman takes matters to the extreme for the finale of "The Ledge," forcing thriller mechanics into a feature largely infatuated with the hard edges of religious and philosophical discussion. It's a clunker of an ending affixed to a nonstarter of a film, rudely adding shock value to a story that's consumed with disturbance.
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