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.
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.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "Gone" (1-1/2 Stars): Suspense thriller starring Amanda Seyfried as a woman who believes her sister has been abducted by the same serial killer who kidnapped her a year earlier.
• "Sing Your Song" (three stars): Documentary about the life of humanitarian, entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.
• "Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp": The live-action 1970 series focused on Lancelot Link (voiced by Dayton Allen), a chimp who was a member of the pop band Evolution Revolution and worked as an agent of the Agency to Prevent Evil (APE).
• "True Blood: The Complete Fourth Season": Anna Paquin stars in the HBO vampire series.
• "Monroe: Series 1": James Nesbitt plays a surgeon with a quick wit and a heart to match his massive ego.
• "The Diamond Queen": Story of the young girl who never expected to reign over the United Kingdom.
• "96 Minutes": A look at a day leading up to a carjacking.
• "Memorial Day": A reluctant veteran tells his grandson about the war through three objects.
• "Henning Mankell's Wallander": Swedish TV series starring Krister Henriksson.
• "The Queen's Palaces": Documentary on the history and architecture of the Royals.
• "Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island": Five northern Civil War POWs escape in a hot air balloon that takes them to a strange new world.
• "Titanic's Final Mystery": Titanic detective Tim Maltin looks to shed new light on the disaster.
• "Maverick: The Complete First Season": James Garner stars in the TV Western.
• "Drop Dead Diva: The Complete Third Season": Brooke Elliott plays a brilliant yet shy attorney brought back to life with the spirit of a wannabe model.
• "Coriolanus": Ralph Fiennes stars in the film version of the William Shakespeare play.
• "too perfect": The first day of summer vacation is the last day of innocence for five teenage boys.
• "Rookie Blue: The Complete Second Season": Missy Peregrym stars.
• "Murdoch Mysteries: Series 4": Includes 13 episodes of the Canadian detective series.
• "Royal Pains: Season 3, Volume 2": Mark Feuerstein stars.
• "The Garfield Show: Summer Adventures": Garfield and his pals morph into superheroes.
• "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers": A young woman lives with a lie about the fate of her abusive aunt.
• "Goon": Hockey movie starring Seann William Scott.
• "The Aggression Scale": Two teens confront heavily armed bad guys.
• "The Jungle Bunch": John Lithgow voices the character of Maurice, a penguin who thinks he's a tiger.
-- PG staff and Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers