Expect the unexpected with Man on a Ledge, Ghosts of Cité Soleil documentary filmmaker Asger Leth’s first feature film that offers an ever varying, well-paced and highly enjoyable crime thriller scenario. In fact, Leth might well have succeeded where other directors have failed; casting Sam Worthington in a comfortable role for once, an action-man niche for his ‘reserved’ – some might argue ‘wooden’ – acting personality.

Ex-cop Nick Cassidy (Worthington) has been convicted and jailed for stealing a million dollar diamond from unscrupulous Manhattan property tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris). After being released for the day to attend his father’s funeral, Cassidy escapes then ends up checking into upmarket Manhattan hotel, the famous Roosevelt Hotel, and climbing onto his hotel room window ledge, 21 stories up, in what looks like an attempted suicide bid brought on by grief. But nothing is as it seems, and everything is for a reason.

Think ‘Noughties Phone Booth meets Ocean’s Eleven’, with a touch of Statham rough-and-ready flung in from Worthington. Apart from the nicely stimulated tension and intrigue as to where the whole narrative is heading, one of the main reasons Leth’s film works is we like Worthington’s Cassidy for no apparent reason from the start, other than we have a ‘cop’s hunch’ that he’s a guy who has taken a fall and must be allowed to restore justice – by any means. Like a Statham character – albeit minus the slick action moves, Cassidy isn’t squeaky clean, but he fights his corner and has values that we can relate to. It’s certainly a time-honoured premise that allows us to feel the world isn’t such a bad place after all, full of latter-day, flawed ‘heroes’.

Admittedly, while some parts are amusingly far-fetched – as in one gravity-defying fall at the end, another obvious reason Leth’s film is a potential hit is the attractive cast. Aside from Worthington, Elizabeth Banks is a cop negotiator playing on borrowed career time who tries to coax Cassidy off the ledge then gets a lot more on her plate than she bargained for. An athletic-looking Jamie Bell also plays Cassidy’s kid brother, Joey, teamed up with equally toned and sultry Genesis Rodriguez as his high-maintenance girlfriend, Angie. Coupled with the eye-popping gymnastics and outfits, the pair also creates a foolish comedy repartee that keeps things interesting while the tension mounts all around.

In times of austerity, Harris as Englander symbolises the latter-day folk devil – the greedy, corrupt businessman we all love to hate – and is faultless in the part. In fact, Leth’s fictional story is almost a self-serving diversion from his gritty documentary making, in that ‘the wronged’ and deserved triumphs – even if it ends with a groan-inducing slap-on-the-back for honest Irish roots and integrity.

Leth also cloaks a lot of the characters’ responses in a healthy dollop of dirty cop cynicism, which permeates proceedings and takes the edge off delivering a more polished and serious crime affair. Indeed, the film’s minor flaws, subtle self-mockery and irony work in its favour, bolstering the detailed observations and its characters’ complexed anxieties. Nobody is privy to how things will pan out, and there is a nice little twist at the end in an action flick where the sexes get to play equal in driving proceedings to fruition.