The so-called thriller "Man on a Ledge," about a disgraced cop who threatens to jump off a building to divert attention from a heist going on across the street, isn't even implausible in a fun way.
You see a movie like "Ocean's 11" or "Tower Heist" (which is thematically similar to this with its wily have-nots stealing from the filthy-rich haves) and you suspend some disbelief because they have an irresistible, knowingly giddy energy about them. "Man on a Ledge" is so cliched and reheated, it almost feels like a parody of a generic action picture - only no one seems to be in on the joke.
Director Asger Leth's film plods along in workmanlike fashion with its trash-talking New York cops and its forensic evidence and its elaborate surveillance systems. Every few minutes, a new star you recognize shows up: Anthony Mackie, Edward Burns, Elizabeth Banks, Kyra Sedgwick, Ed Harris. Sometimes Leth points his camera through a hotel-room window and straight down to the ground below, just to provide a little rush of vertigo.
At the center of all this is a bland Sam Worthington doing a horrible job of disguising his Australian accent. He stars as Nick Cassidy, a fugitive who insists he was wrongly imprisoned for stealing a $40 million diamond from Harris' reptilian real-estate tycoon. As Nick teeters along a ledge on the 21st floor of the Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan, stalling for time while toying with scarred police negotiator Lydia Mercer (Banks), Nick's brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and Joey's stereotypically saucy Latina girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are trying to pull off a real burglary across the street.
How these blue-collar young folks in love have the skills, experience and an unlimited supply of equipment to rappel down elevator shafts and hang upside-down to circumvent a high-tech security system is never really explained. But it is eye-rollingly far-fetched. Since the script from Pablo F. Fenjves doesn't bother fleshing out these characters, you may not want to bother taxing yourself by caring. (At least Angie knew enough to wear a hot pink pushup bra and matching lace panties underneath her skin-tight body suit. Now that's planning.)
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, things are getting tense as trust is eroding. Seems some people involved here aren't telling the whole truth. Lydia barks into her walkie-talkie, "This is MY negotiation," and Nick shouts to the gawking masses below, "I am an innocent man!" Every once in a while Sedgwick shows up as a cynical TV news reporter named Suzie Morales - and she hits that R in her last name hard as she's doing her live shots, a joke that's funny the first couple times, max.
All the familiar, obligatory pieces are in place, there's just never much tension. Or artistry. Or a sense of peril. Little things like that.
"Man on a Ledge," a Summit Entertainment release, is rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language. Running time: 102 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.