Director : Gillian Armstrong
Starring : Guy Pearce, Catherine Zeta Jones, Timothy Spall, Saoirse Ronan
Our Score :
By Clint Morris
Considering it’s a movie about Harry Houdini, one would’ve thought ‘’Death Defying Acts” would have played a lot more real than it does. Instead, it comes across as an implausible piece that fails to convince the audience that what’s going in front of them isn’t just an act.
Director Gillian Armstrong’s film fixes on the relationship between American magic king Houdini (the always-terrific Guy Pearce) and a Scottish woman Mary McGarvie (Catherine Zeta Jones), a wannabe psychic, who he has challenged to prove her legitimacy in front of an audience (if she can tell Houdini what the last three words his late mother said to him on her death bed were, she inherits $10, 000). It’s not too long before the duo fall in love. Not long at all, in fact.
Thing is, you don’t believe it. There’s nothing here to suggest any kind of affection or sudden approbation between them. They simply meet, talk, and before they know it, are soul mates. It all seems a little rushed… and fake.
Maybe it’s got something to do with the script? After all, Houdini was never originally a part of it, writers Tony Grisoni and Brian Ward had simply written a film about the art of the con that somehow, later on, they managed to tweak to include the magic-man in.
The production design is good, the performances are good (young Saoirse Ronan, exhibiting the same self-confidence she displayed in ‘’Atonement’’, plays Zeta Jones’s daughter; Timothy Spall is good as Houdini’s right-hand man, Mr Sugarman) and the direction is fine, but the story itself just doesn’t ring true, nor hypnotize.
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