We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 6 Sep 6:25PM
Asger Leth's suspense thriller sees a man (Sam Worthington) threatening to throw himself from the ledge of a New York hotel at the same time as a diamond heist is taking place across the street.
Asger Leth's film would have you believe that New York is either the worst place in the world to be a cop or the best to be a criminal mastermind. The former apparently have to follow some vague "instinct" at all times instead of, you know, the law - and the latter? Well they can do pretty much whatever they want as long as they've read just about every book on electronics and espionage ever written. To say that Man On A Ledge is unrealistic would be like saying its bare-bones title is misleading or vague: There is a man, and he's on a freaking ledge.
The film is actually a very loose remake of 2011's The Ledge, although the ledge part is about all that survived Pablo F. Fenjves' script, which involves a man, Nick Cassidy (played with leering, gravelly gusto by Sam Worthington), threatening to kill himself (much to the chagrin of New York city's apparently rabid, heartless masses). Amazingly, there's a shoe-horned in diamond heist at the nimble hands of Jamie Bell that would make Danny Ocean sweat, and a cop in an emotional nosedive (a pleasant, if bland, Elizabeth Warren).
The way in which these stories intertwine plays out with all the grace and subtlety of a porn movie; and director Asger Leth uses a sort of porn logic to get his characters from one scenario to another, and it even comes complete with its own stripper-cum-cat burglar assisting Jamie Bell (by showing a lot of cleavage). Essentially whenever something needs to happen in the film it will happen in the laziest, most convenient way possible - and it's unintentionally hilarious. A film with aspirations to be one part Die Hard, one part Ocean's Eleven really didn't need to be as smart or as slick as either of those films to be fun but Fenjves' script doesn't even try. Holding the cards so close and giving so little away at the outset feels like cheating an audience already putting up with a lot and Ed Harris' evil, fat-cat villain is criminally underused.
It is at times exciting, rarely boring and there's some frightening use of the vertiginous setup, but it's the awful script that will leave the audience dizzy. Much hullabaloo is made of Nick's situation causing a ruckus in Midtown New York but spare a thought for the poor citizens whose lives were actually disrupted when the cameras started to roll on Man On A Ledge - the final product probably won't make it seem worthwhile.
Silly Things Happen Very High might have been a better title, but there's still fun to be had. Yes, it's astoundingly stupid and full of rubbish characterisation and nonsense twists, but Man On A Ledge is harmless enough.
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