Writer/director Matthew Chapman would like to have the audience on the edge of its seat throughout The Ledge. Gavin (Charlie Hunnam) ascends to a rooftop in the opening minutes, but it's pretty clear once police officer Hollis (Terrence Howard) shows up you're going to hear the whole story before Gavin even peeks at the street below.
Gavin works as a hotel manager and shares an apartment with a roommate who is gay. New neighbors Joe (Patrick Wilson) and Shana (Liv Tyler) move into their building and invite them to dinner. Joe is an overbearing evangelical Christian and, presuming his guests are a gay couple, he asks to say grace and launches into a judgmental prayer for their eternal souls and salvation. It's not long before Gavin senses the loneliness Shana feels in her marriage, and he gets the perfect opportunity to reach out to her when she coincidentally starts working at the hotel he manages. The ample supply of empty beds is a great convenience.
Back up on the rooftop, we learn Hollis also is having a crisis in his life, and the two plots both unfurl in flashback as it is slowly revealed why Gavin is prepared to end his life.
Hunnam, Howard and Tyler all turn in decent performances, but unfortunately for Wilson, he has to play a monster. A wolf in sheep's clothing, he has shed various vices and addictions and filled the void with a dogmatic embrace of Christianity. His marriage is hollow because he's not so much in love with Shana as dedicated to the notion of saving her soul. Her life hasn't been easy either, and it's no wonder she finds Gavin more compassionate.
Chapman's film features an extended battle between Joe and Gavin as respective advocates for faith and secularism. The filmmaker has dubbed Gavin the first openly atheist lead in a major film, and he has promoted the film to take the faith debate public. Many of the arguments are encapsulated well and some are hindered by the limitations of Joe's narrow and rigid views. Occasionally the two characters' give and take helps to advance the plot, particularly when Joe's attempts to demonstrate the purity of his faith shows how blind he is to Shana's needs. At times, however, that debate becomes the tail that wags the dog, and ultimately the plot has a forced sense of conflict before anyone betrays their own creed. — Will Coviello
7:30 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday
Chalmette Movies, 8700 W. Judge Perez Drive, 304-9992; www.chalmettemovies.com