PLOT: A Catholic cop must attempt to talk a suicidal man off a ledge; in the process he learns what drove the man to this fateful decision.
REVIEW: THE LEDGE works more as a series of "What would you do?" questions than as an actual movie. To put a finer point on it, Matthew Chapman's film seeks to send us from the theater (or couch) debating its many thought-provoking situations - which of course there is nothing wrong with - but in the process it forgets to be as interesting or gripping as the arguments that take place.
The film kicks off with Det. Hollis (Terrence Howard) being told that he's infertile, despite the fact that he has two children of his own; obviously, this news, and the realization that his wife has been lying to him for well over a decade, shakes him to his very core. This shocker is almost immediately followed by the news that a man has walked to the ledge of a roof and apparently intends to jump. Of course, it's up to Hollis to go up and convince him to step away, but not before hearing the man's story. It quickly becomes evident that the man, named Gavin and played by Charlie Hunnam, is not standing on the ledge by choice: he's being forced to. (The fact that Gavin says he has to jump off at noon, which gives him a few hours to discuss his recent past, helps us all come to that conclusion.)
Thus, we're given over to a series of flashbacks that chart Gavin's interesting progression to the ledge: The main catalyst is the moving in of his new neighbors, married couple Joe (Patrick Wilson) and Shauna (Liv Tyler). Both a quickly established as being religious weirdos, but Gavin's instant attraction to Shauna necessitates that he pursue her. (Gavin, you see, is not the most moral of people. Nor the most religious - he's a proud atheist - so that "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" stuff doesn't exactly resonate.) Shauna, it turns out, is an ex-hooker and junkie; she was "saved" by Joe and owes him her life. Gavin similarly has a tragic backstory, so they're kindred spirits, of a sort. Before long, they're sharing flirtatious glances while Joe spouts the typical Bible-thumping rhetoric, even going so far as to extend an offer to save Gavin's gay roommate (Christopher Gorham) from the evil "choice" that is homosexuality. (The roommate is also Jewish and practices Kabbalah, so you can see that THE LEDGE wants to include just about every single hot button group; all that's missing is a Muslim.) It's the combination of Joe's sanctimonious self-righteousness and Shauna's obvious sexual frustration that ultimately leads Gavin to commence an affair with the wife. Certainly, this cannot end well, as is the case with most affairs in real life - and all affairs in the movies.
If THE LEDGE sounds like a sexy little potboiler/film noir, that's not how it plays. Yes, there's at least one revealing sex scene (fans of celebrity skin will be pleased to see just how much Liv Tyler reveals), and the atmosphere of adultery amid all the talk of faith and spirituality lends the proceedings a hint of wickedness, but THE LEDGE is a stuffy, staged movie, without much tension or excitement. It gives us over to multiple conversations about belief in God vs. the cynicism of being an atheist, but it all ends up feeling like we're watching the director work out his issues instead of providing us with a movie that's as strong and intense as the ideas being discussed. This problem is further exacerbated by the two fairly unlikable male leads. Wilson and Hunnam are both good actors, that's not in question, but neither of these men are relatable: Gavin is a flippant jerk, openly mocking anyone who might show a hint of religious conviction; Joe is a fire-and-brimstone cliche of the most obvious kind. (Naturally, he found Jesus after a life of sin and vice.) Shauna, for her part, comes off as a patsy, unable to steer herself away from the will of either man. Ultimately, no one in the movie gains our respect.
As THE LEDGE builds to its climax, it grows more and more unbelievable, sometimes edging toward ridiculousness. There are undeniably strong messages and themes to be found in Chapman's movie, but unfortunately THE LEDGE is not up to the task of entertaining us sufficiently. A cardinal sin in the world of cinema.