2 1/2 stars = Average
Much of "Man on a Ledge" takes place on a 14-inch stone shelf outside a room on the 21st floor of a Manhattan hotel.
That is where Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington), a disgraced cop turned prison escapee, heads after ordering some champagne and food and writing a note that declares: "I will exit this world as I entered -- innocent."
The story spins back to his incarceration in Sing Sing, denial of his final appeal and temporary release for a family funeral. He makes a violent break for it in the cemetery and finds his way to the Roosevelt Hotel at 45th Street and Madison Avenue.
When police show up, Nick threatens to jump unless NYPD negotiator Lydia Spencer (Elizabeth Banks) appears in 30 minutes. She arrives with a hangover and the sickening shadow of a previous case gone bad, but she (and we) have to figure out who Nick is, why he's 200 feet above the street and where others on both sides of the law factor into his apparent dance with death.
It also stars Anthony Mackie as Nick's best friend on the force; Ed Burns as another hostage negotiator; Ed Harris as an arrogant businessman who is all muscle and menace; Genesis Rodriguez as the girlfriend of Mr. Bell's character; Titus Welliver as another NYPD cop; and Kyra Sedgwick as a TV reporter who will be front and center if the jumper goes splat.
With its threads about a cop wrongfully condemned to 25 years in prison, a breakneck escape, a negotiator in need of redemption, criminals who deserve a comeuppance, a heist and a couple of surprises, "Man" tries to give moviegoers plenty of reasons to get off the fence, if not the ledge.
3 stars = Good
As the movie opens, you know that something awful has happened although you don't (yet) know the toll or specifics. But it's obvious that Eva (Tilda Swinton) is a reviled, tense and wary woman whose house and car are vandalized with red paint and probably not for the first time.
Her first-born, Kevin, is in prison, and flashbacks to his birth are like something out of a horror film. In the hospital, Eva is like a chilly outsider while her husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly), happily cradles the baby.
Kevin is not an easy child. He presents a sunny side to his father but engages in emotional warfare with his mother.
"We Need to Talk About Kevin," based on Lionel Shriver's novel of the same name and adapted by director Lynne Ramsay and Rory Stewart Kinnear, tells the story from Eva's point of view. She slides from the present back to the past and then the distant past, before she and Franklin had children or moved to a big home in the suburbs.
Eva is in hell, and we eventually understand why although the reasons remain elusive, perhaps as they might in real life.
"We Need to Talk ..." is disturbing and not an easy movie to watch, although it is an exceedingly well-acted one with Ms. Swinton and Mr. Reilly, joined by three actors portraying Kevin as a toddler, 6-year-old and, finally, teen. Ms. Swinton tackles a complicated character who seems to physically and emotionally withdraw from life, as much as she can.
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-- PG staff and Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapersmoviereviews