In this quasi anti-religious thriller ‘The Ledge’, Police detective Hollis Lucretti (Terrence Howard) has just received the rather unsettling news that he’s sterile and that he’s always been sterile. That news in itself isn’t so bad but does cause the man to wonder where those two ankle biters running around his house came from. We call that ‘a situation’ where I come from. Across town a young man named Gavin (Charlie Hunnam) has climbed onto the ledge of the tallest building in whatever city this is and is primed to jump. It is Hollis’ job to talk down jumpers and as you might imagine, right now Hollis isn’t feeling too good about life, but he has a job to do so off he goes.
It only takes Hollis about a minutes worth of conversation to realize that something isn’t exactly right about this jumper. In fact it looks like that this ledge is the last place that Gavin wants to be. Gavin informs Hollis that when the clock across the way strikes twelve noon, it’s about 9:30 right now, he has to jump or someone else will die. How did Gavin get into this mess? Well, that’s what ‘The Ledge’ is all about.
Gavin, a hotel manager, seems like a nice enough guy. He has taken in a gay roommate in Chris (Christopher Gorham) who lost his job due to testing HIV positive, the people at his job love him, and he’s fair and honest. He’s also got some new neighbors in Joe (Patrick Wilson) and Shanna (Liv Tyler) and by chance Shanna needed a part time job to help her with her school expenses which Gavin was able to give her. Great guy.
The trouble starts when Gavin learns that Joe is a fundamental Christian. Joe invites Gavin and Chris to Dinner, observes some gayness and subsequently tries to pray for their rotten souls which does not make Gavin happy. You see Gavin’s not gay. Oh no, far from it, but his is also a non-believer. Or not. More on that later. But to punish Joe for his puritanical beliefs Gavin has decided to seduce his wife. Crazy, but that’s what he has planned to do and he’s is running his A+ pimp game on poor Shanna, a recovering drug addict and prostitute, to make this happen.
Every once in a while Hollis has to step away from this jumper to take a call from his wife (Jaqueline Fleming) or flashback a bit to hear his wife trying to explain to him why he has these kids. Then it’s back to Gavin, with the clock getting closer to twelve, to continue his sordid tale of seduction. Shanna knows what’s up, she’s no fool and she can tell where this is leading and asks Gavin to leave her and her husband alone. Nothing good can come of this. Of course she probably should’ve just quit that part time job at the hotel which would’ve negated having to sit on the bus next to Gavin everyday and seeing him on the job everyday, but then we wouldn’t have Gavin on a ledge.
Eventually Gavin’s game works and he has shown Joe what his God has done for him. What he didn’t plan on was falling in love. What he didn’t realize is that Joe is a psycho. If Gavin watched movies like we watch movies then Gavin would’ve known that most religious characters in movies, if it’s not specifically a religious movie, are psychos. So here we are. Joe is on the ledge, it’s almost twelve, the woman he loves in peril and the cop trying to talk him down is hearbroken. And it’s all God’s fault.
Written and directed by Matthew Chapman ,‘The Ledge’, which I’ve heard termed as an ‘Atheist Thriller’ does have some issues to work through. One of these would not be Terrence Howard who in his limited screen time does his damndest to drag this movie, kicking and screaming, into the realm of a workable piece of cinematic art. Terrence Howard aside, the first issue that we have to deal with is that there is no one or nothing to root for or side with in this movie. Gavin is almost Satanic in his approach to seducing Shanna. Shanna, for her part, is weak and an unashamed adulterer and Joe is an unstable psycho. Of course Joe was fine before his wife started boning the dude down the hall, but I imagine there are better ways to deal with spousal infidelity. One of the closing scenes shows a surviving character looking off wistfully into the sunset, and I’m thinking ‘am I supposed to be sympathetic to this character?’ because I wasn’t. Not even close.
Now as far as the religious aspects of the movie go, that’s hit and miss. Chapman, a noted atheist, wrote some good dialog for his characters when Joe and Gavin were having their discussions on faith, but since it had to end a certain way, the conversations would start out civil and engaging but end with Joe eventually going wacko, if for no other reason than Joe had to go wacko to justify the endgame. The main issue, however, is that Gavin is portrayed more like someone who is angry with God as opposed to someone who is a non-believer. Gavin suffered a deep personal tragedy and the way it’s written, after this tragedy, Gavin seemed to blame God as opposed to thinking ‘oh well, obviously there’s no God or this wouldn’t have happened’. If Gavin’s purpose in seducing Shanna was to snag a quality piece of ass, I can see that. If it was to prove a point, that I did not see or comprehend. What does it prove outside of Shanna having a weak moral composition?
The truth of the matter is that it’s a worthless argument. Gavin, the non-believer looks at the stars and states ‘It’s bigger than all of us’ thus proving that there’s no God. The believer can say ‘but God created it’. The non-believer states ‘there’s no proof that God exists’, the believer counters with ‘there’s proof all around us, and thus there’s no proof He doesn’t exist’. It’s a discussion almost worth not having, were it not for the fact that it’s almost always fun to engage in.
As a thriller, ‘The Ledge’ is pretty lousy. Gavin’s situation is one he didn’t have to be in, and that’s after he walked out on the ledge since he could’ve had Hollis fix his situation almost immediately, combined with the fact that we didn’t care if his character lived or died. Despite Terence Howard’s fine performance, the movie probably didn’t need his side story either, outside of the fact that it gave us another atheistic exclamation near the end. But it does work better as a launching point for debate. A slanted debate perhaps in which one side always goes nuts when the debate seems to be going the other way, but this where ‘The Ledge’ shows its potential. It was unrealized potential, but it was there.