Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) stars in The Ledge, which was the most unredeemable film at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and that’s being kind to unredeemable films. Coming into the festival, it was one of the most buzzed about movies at Sundance, thanks to a cast that also features Liv Tyler, Terrence Howard, and Patrick Wilson, and a hook — a film told from the point of view of a man standing on a ledge — that at least sounded compelling.
It is not.
When the film opens, Gavin (Hunnam) is standing on a ledge on the roof of a building, and a police officer, Hollis (Howard) — who just found out that he had been sterile all his life — is trying to talk him down. We quickly learn that Gavin isn’t on top of that building of his own volition. For reasons that are initially unclear, he has to stand on top of the ledge for several hours and then jump off at noon, lest someone else he loves dies. Gavin, because he’s got nothing better to do while he’s standing out of a ledge, conveys the story that brought him there to Hollis. It began when he met Shauna (Liv Tyler), a married neighbor who, coincidentally, comes to work for him in a hotel, where Gavin manages the service staff. Gavin is instantly attracted to her, but complications arise because 1) she’s married, and 2) she’s married to a Bible-thumping evangelical nutjob, Joe (Patrick Wilson).
Joe pisses off Gavin when, during dinner with Gavin and his roommate, Joe decides to pray for the roommate, on the count of him being gay. It’s then that Gavin decides to seduce away Shauna, a reluctant born-again who clings to Joe because he saved her from drugs and her pimp. Gavin soon realizes that you don’t fuck with a nutjob, while Hollis — in flashbacks to his own life — realizes that his children aren’t his because his equipment has never worked.
Try to guess why Gavin is on top of the building.
Somehow, the plot description gives the film way more credit than it deserves. It mostly amounts to a series of cringe-worthy discussions about religion that sound very much like something you’d pick up in God 101. In middle school. The Ledge wants to think it’s profound, but it’s about as deep as the petri dish where the single-celled organism that hatched up this idea resides. It’s name is Matthew Chapman.
Charlie Hunnam is terrible in ways that I never thought a guy with amazing facial hair could be. He’s mastered the Hunnam scowl in “Sons of Anarchy,” but here he’s asked to be a cheery atheist, and if you can imagine his character in “SofA” bouncing around like Joseph Gordon Levitt to a Hall and Oates song, you have a pretty decent idea what Hunnam’s character is like. Liv Tyler delivers on the mediocrity she’s always been associated with, and Terrence Howard continues to make his case for the next king of Redbox. He’s a very bad actor and yet even he is better than what he’s given to work with. Even poor Patrick Wilson isn’t given lines he can deliver convincingly. It’s a mess of a film, an embarrassment to the careers of everyone involved, and completely unworthy of your attention.
The Ledge was originally screened at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. It opened in limited release this weekend.