A man stands on a high ledge, waiting to jump. A cop who’s just gotten some very bad news tries to talk him down. So far, so hackneyed. But then the ledge-man (Charlie Hunnam) tells the cop (Terrence Howard) that if he doesn’t jump exactly at noon, someone will die. And then he starts explaining why, via a lengthy flashback to a love affair gone wrong, and a story about the perils of crossing the devoutly religious.
The Ledge is a sometimes-fascinating, often-aggravating chamber thriller that works best when it’s doubling as an inquiry into faith. Hunnam plays a cocksure, God-hating hotel manager who tries to seduce his pious neighbor/employee Liv Tyler, in part to spite her even-holier husband Patrick Wilson. But the more Hunnam gets to know the couple, and the more he reveals about his own troubled past, the clearer it becomes that all three of them are hanging by a thread when it comes to what they do and don’t believe. Meanwhile, in the present day, Howard is trying to coax relevant info out of Hunnam while dealing with the news that his own wife has been unfaithful, and that his children aren’t actually his.
The Ledge would’ve worked splendidly as a taut neo-noir, with stained heroes and villains discovering how their flaws reflect each other. But writer-director Matthew Chapman treats this material more as straight drama, and his cast isn’t always up to that task. (If nothing else, The Ledge is a reminder of what a terrible, terrible actress Liv Tyler is.) Still, the movie’s hook is sharp and its ending powerful, and given that all Chapman really means to do is to consider the various ways that divine providence screws us, he deserves credit for doing it through a story that most viewers will want to see through to the end. After all, when there’s a guy on a ledge, who wouldn’t stick around and gawk?