The Ledge, not to be confused with Man on a Ledge (although they have the same basic gimmick of well, a man on a ledge) premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, boasting a semi-decent cast of recognisable faces (Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, Terrence Howard and Charlie Hunnam) and dealing with the ever-hot topic of atheism versus religion. However, its recent direct-to-DVD release over here in good ol’ Blighty may give you a clue as to how well it was received. Now, I’m not saying that all direct-to-DVD releases are terrible. One of my favourite DVDs, Slippery Midgets 9, never got a theatrical run, for instance. However, minimal internet research will tell you that the film was mauled by critics and audiences alike in the United States- and with just cause too. The Ledge was a chore to watch.
The basic story is this: Charlie Hunnam plays Gavin, a man on a ledge of a tall building threatening to jump. Terrence Howard plays Hollis Lucetti, the detective tasked with talking him down, himself having his own personal drama to deal with as he’s been diagnosed as infertile and always has been – a troubling notion as he’s married and has two kids. As Hollis tries to coax Gavin down, Gavin’s story unfolds and we gradually learn why he’s there and, more importantly, why he can’t come down. Everything seemingly having to do with devout Christian Joe Harris (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Shana (Liv Tyler). The story shuffles along at a dull, plodding pace and shoots itself in the foot by being both overly verbose and crappily written. Some of the central ideas are decent, but the execution is so sloppy they almost don’t matter. Whilst we’re meant to dislike Gavin to a certain extent, I found him to be a completely insufferable douchebag, partly due to Charlie Hunnam’s completely charmless performance and partly due to the horrible dialogue. I’ve heard he’s decent in FX’s Sons of Anarchy, but I see no evidence of it here. Liv Tyler is also horribly wooden and practically has the same backstory as her character in 2010’s infinitely better black comedy Super. The only actor worth mentioning is Patrick Wilson who gives a great, deranged turn as Joe, a fundamentalist Christian who has a massive crisis of faith. I’m not sure whether Wilson was truly good or whether he just looked good by comparison, but he’s the only character who actually has some energy and get-up-and-go in this shoe-gazing piece of nonsense.
What annoyed me about The Ledge was that it really believes it’s a powerful and thought-provoking musing on the nature of religion and belief. What it actually is is a pretentious load of old guff, trotting out the same tired old faith versus reason arguments that countless media have explored with greater understanding elsewhere. The film crowbars in religious discussion wherever it can and whilst occasionally makes decent points for both sides of the debate, has such an aggressive tone you get the feeling writer/director Matthew Chapman is working out his Jesus issues on-screen and in lieu of paying a therapist, has decided to charge audiences to see his various ragings at the heavens. Several Christian critics had a problem with the way Joe’s faith is portrayed and I can see where they’re coming from. Thing is, everyone comes off badly in this film, no matter what their beliefs.
The Ledge is a horribly written, horribly acted borefest, which I’d have been happy just to write-off and ignore if it wasn’t for the film’s sincere conviction that it was truly making some profound points about religion and the human condition. It’d be laughable if it wasn’t so joyless. Avoid.