The Ledge

4 Aug

Title: The Ledge
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Matthew Chapman
Writer: Matthew Chapman
Starring: 
Charlie Hunnam, Terrence Howard, Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson
MPAA Rating: 
R, sexuality, language and some violent content
Runtime: 
101 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
12%

Matthew Chapman hasn’t directed a film since 1988’s Heart of Midnight, a film with Jennifer Jason Leigh I can’t say I have seen or heart much about, but he was part of the four-man team who did the adaptation of John Grisham’s novel for 2003’s Runaway Jury, a film I seriously liked and one of those rare occasions in which a screenplay written by four people actually worked. So, considering he also wrote The Ledge, the film in which he makes a directorial comeback, I was certainly willing to check it out. And when I heard of its cast, I was actually really looking forward to it, Liv Tyler isn’t really good, but Terrence Howard can be quite dependable, Patrick Wilson has been truly excellent in the past, and then there’s Charlie Hunnam, who was part of the cast of the cult classic TV series Undeclared and is currently the lead on FX’s sensational Sons of Anarchy, but hasn’t really made the break onto feature films quite yet, though his being cast on Guillermo del Toro’s eagerly anticipated Pacific Rim for summer 2013 probably means that’s only a matter of time. So yeah, the cast for this film I thought was rock solid and should make for a pretty decent film.

I was, however unfortunately, rather wrong with hoping this would be good, and, what’s worse, it was all because of Mr. Chapman’s script. And that’s because the screenplay by Mr. Chapman, who this time around worked alone on it, was just way too heavy-handed at times and just terribly mechanical and formulaic through the whole thing, following a narrative formula that I would guess is taught in the first few weeks of introductory screenwriting classes, and that just gave The Ledge, no matter its cast, absolutely no momentum to take and go forward with. The film is, by the way, a psychological thriller, the sort of film that really needs to be gripping in order to succeed and not feel as artificial as this one ultimately did. And the ledge referred to in the title is the one from which we are left to ponder whether Gavin, Mr. Hunnam’s character,  will jump off or not, as we are also left to wonder why exactly is he thinking about jumping.

But it doesn’t just end there, you see, because Gavin, a young and good-looking hotel manager, announces that if he doesn’t jump by noon then someone else will die. We’re not given answers to the why/who/how’s of this predicament right away, because The Ledge needs to keep them from us to create whatever suspense it can. We get the story of Gavin, though, as he’s standing there on that high ledge and starts talking to Mr. Howard’s character, Hollis, a cop who has received some horrible news himself and who’s charged with the job of talking him down. We get flashbacks to explain the current situation we’re witnessing, and the flashbacks and the current story are used by this film to pose some pretty big questions about religion and faith and God.

And even though it’s not necessarily super steady in its approach to faith, I thought that it tended to be rather fascinating when it tackled those themes, or at least better than when it goes back to just being a rather irritating thriller with a stale narrative structure. Gavin, you see, is actually a rather cocky guy who apparently hates God and he lives with a friend of his, who happens to be gay, so his next door neighbors, Joe and his wife Shana, the characters of Mr. Wilson and Ms. Tyler, invite them over to dinner. The purpose of the dinner is that Joe is a born-again Christian and no doubt wants to warn the two, who he assumes are a homosexual couple, about the perils of what they are doing and trying to convert them. However, the only thing that happens after the dinner is that Gavin hires Shana, who confesses to him and she used to be an addict until Joe saved her, and an affair between the two takes place. Mr. Howard’s character, meanwhile, is left to cope with the new that he has been infertile his whole life, so the two kids he has with his wife aren’t really his.

So you see, we have all these characters, each with a crisis of their own that comes to clash into one big mess, all of them hanging by separate yet equally thin threads as far as what they truly believe in goes. And I just loved that whole premise, I wanted The Ledge to be that awesome neo-noir that I could adore, with no clear villain or hero, just with flawed characters who meet each other at a melting point and see themselves somewhat reflected in each other. But instead, Mr. Chapman just totally fucked us over, because no matter how talented his cast, the script just didn’t allow for that movie to come out of it, it just played the story as a straight drama-thriller and not as the more complicated work it should have been, the script was just too preachy to work, and the flaws in it, which just tacked on way too heavily on the woes of his character’s background, just made it impossible to really take this film all that seriously.

Grade: C

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