Death Defying Acts (3 stars)

This article is from 2008

Death Defying Acts

(Gillian Armstrong, UK, Australia) 97min

It’s 1926, and the world tour of escape artist Harry Houdini (Guy Pearce) brings him to Edinburgh. There he’s charmed by local con-artist Mary McGarvie (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who poses as a psychic to put Houdini in touch with his beloved dead mother. But what begins as a simple scam is complicated by their increasingly intertwined hearts.

The intriguing premise of this historical romance, which freely mixes fact with fiction, was dreamed up by co-writers Tony Grisoni (Brothers of the Head) and Glaswegian Brian Ward. Their script neatly contrasts deceptions of a professional and personal nature, and there are fine performances from the leads and their support: Timothy Spall and Atonement’s Saoirse Ronan. The film is let down in the end, however, by Gillian Armstrong’s surprisingly flat direction.

Cineworld, Tue 24 Jun, 8pm; Thu 26 Jun, 5pm, £8 (£6.40).

Death Defying Acts

  • 2 stars
  • 2007
  • UK / Australia
  • 1h 37min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Gillian Armstrong
  • Written by: Tony Grisoni, Brian Ward
  • Cast: Guy Pearce, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Saoirse Ronan

Freely mixing historical fact with fictionalised biography, this film turns on a fascinating premise: a battle of wits and wills between world-famous escapist and skeptic of all things supernatural Harry Houdini (Pearce) and a Scots con-woman posing as a psychic (Zeta-Jones). Interesting as all that sounds, though, Death…