Movie review: “Death defying acts”

Death Defying Acts (2008) is a romantic thriller based on a short period of the life of escape artist Harry Houdini (played by a superbly fit and very nicely built Guy Pearce – eye candy for the ladies 🙂 ). (See trailer.)

On a tour of Britain in 1926, Harry offers a US10,000 reward to anyone who can successfully contact his mother from beyond the grave, and reveal what her final words to him were. A beautiful woman, Mary McGregor (played by a luscious and oozingly sensual Catherine Zeta Jones – eye candy for the chaps) and her daughter Benji (the talented Saoirse Ronan), both apparently with psychic abilities – although they also use more earthly methods to trick and deceive the audiences that come to their shows – are desperate to win this money.

Meanwhile, Harry and his devoted manager (Timothy Spall – whom I will forever associate with the role of Peter Pettigrew he played in the Harry Potter movies) audition one supposed psychic after another, amidst mounting disappointment and frustration at the realisation that they are all fakes and charlatans.

However, when Mary begins to speak to Harry, she enchants and beguiles him, and somehow, he falls for her charms. It is difficult to say definitively whether they are really falling in love, or whether she is merely bent on extracting from him the information she needs in order to con him, or whether he is just going along for the ride. It is the tension generated by this uncertainty that makes the story even more compelling to watch.

Everything builds towards the public séance at which Mary is supposed to reveal the last words spoken by his mother, but it doesn’t go entirely according to plan.

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