Sunday, March 16, 2008

REVIEW: Death Defying Acts

This is a copy of my article written for Mile Hive. Please take a look at the site HERE.

In the immortal words of Jagged Edge, Where the party at?

Death Defying Acts is set during a tour of Britain in 1926, where Harry Houdini enters into a passionate affair with a psychic out to con the famous magician... It stars Guy Pearce as the great Houdini and Catherine Zeta Jones as a Scottish fake who tries to win the money Houdini offers to anyone who can communicate with his dead mother. Academy darling Saoirse Ronan, nominated for her part in Atonement, plays Zeta-Jones daughter in the film.

Death Defying Acts is directed by Aussie Gillian Armstrong and was partially financed with Australian money. Armstrong has been growing as a director, and while this film experienced limited release, it does highlight her talent.

The story is based in fact but the romance and events surrounding Houdini's death are fictionalised for the purpose of the film. I was surprised to find I actually enjoyed watching Guy Pearce and Zeta-Jones, who finally allows herself to appear aged. While many have said there is no real chemistry here, their kisses seemed as real as those on the lips of any true lovers. You just have to watch the cardboard kisses between Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler in P.S I Love You to have a basis for comparison.

While Death Defying Acts does lull in the middle, the story, costumes and style are incredibly good. The relationships between all the characters were entertaining and well fleshed out. I really enjoyed Death Defying Acts and, even though it seemed longer than it was, I will say the pace was the only downside here.

I recommend this flick for anyone who enjoyed The Prestige or The Illusionist, or of course, if you're interested in Harry Houdini, but not in historical accuracy.

I give Death Defying Acts 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. This was an engaging film, but by no means a perfect exploration of the subject matter.

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