Death Defying Acts

Death Defying Acts

Death Defying Acts

It is 1926 and famed escape artist Harry Houdini (Guy Pearce) is touring Britain. However, his well-received performances hide the pain he still feels towards the loss of his mother, a wound that is opened further when he becomes romantically entangled with a Scottish psychic and con woman (Catherine Zeta-Jones.) A highly publicised seance is arranged so that Houdini may contact his mother one last time. Of course the occasion is not what it appears and things do not go according to plan. Movies centred on magic performers, such as The Illusionist and The Prestige, have been popular at the box office, and now one of the industries most respected female directors, Australian Gillian Armstrong, presents her offering to what is almost becoming a genre in itself.

200897 minsUK, Australia
DramaThrillerRomance
Director:
Gillian Armstrong (???Charlotte Gray???, ???Oscar and Lucinda???, ???Little Women???)
Writer:
Tony GrisoniBrian Ward
Cast:
Guy PearceCatherine Zeta-JonesTimothy SpallSaoirse RonanSilvia LombardoJack Bailer

Streaming (4 Providers)

Death Defying Acts / Reviews

Flicks, Team

Flicks, Team

With legendary real-life escapologist Harry Houdini as its central protagonist, a tantalisingly ill-advised, spiritually entangled romance at its heart and a cast featuring not only Pearce and Zeta Jones, but also top Brit Timothy Spall and Atonement youngster Saoirse Ronan, you'd expect this to soar. But unlike its wriggly hero, the film's potential is never released - either as a love story, a character study or a visual feast.

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Variety

Variety

A handsome contraption that's never very engaging, let alone convincing.

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Urban Cinefile

Urban Cinefile

The screenplay, a helter skelter mish-mash of fact and fiction, is like a hypothetical, but a fascinating one with a clear eye for story. It never loses its focus on how Houdini's emotional world is collapsed by Marie - and why. There is a wonderful sense of time and place thanks to superb lighting camerawork from Haris Zambarloukos with Gemma Jackson's excellent production design, and Cezary Skubiszewski's score is a triumph. Armstrong's visual style of story telling (stylishly edited by Nicholas Beauman) is highly effective, generating emotional intensity and a satisfying resolution.

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The New York Times

The New York Times

Ms. Zeta-Jones is too elegant for the lowlife she's supposed to be, Ms. Ronan isn't endearing enough to be a ragamuffin, and, under Gillian Armstrong's direction, never for a minute do you believe they're mother and daughter.

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New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald

A slow and contrived, yet visually beautiful attempt at romance and magic.

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Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times

Far more diverting and well crafted than its promotion-free release campaign might suggest. Then again, for a film largely based on the notion that "nothing is what it seems," such lowered expectations may actually work in its favor.

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LA Weekly

LA Weekly

This won't be remembered as one of the prodigiously talented Armstrong's great films (My Brilliant Career, High Tide, Little Women), but it's still 90 percent better than everything else out there.

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Hollywood Reporter

Hollywood Reporter

What it lacks is a villain, and magic without danger is simply a parlor trick, which is what the film becomes.

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