Death Defying Acts (2008)



Critic Consensus: Pretty but dull, with unconvincing turns from Zeta-Jones and Pearce. If you want a period magician movie, seek out The Prestige or The Illusionist instead.

Movie Info

"Death Defying Acts" is based on the life of Harry Houdini, the fictional tale of how an escapologist fell in love with an Edinburgh woman.

Rating: PG (for some sensuality, thematic material, language, violent content and smoking)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By: Brian Ward, Tony Grisoni
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 28, 2008
Genius Productions


as Harry Houdini

as Mary McGarvie

as Mr. Sugarman

as Red Haired Pilot

as Leith Romeo

as Leith Romeo's Wife

as Mr. Robertson

as Flower Stall Seller

as Oily Librarian

as Ugly Mug

as Sugarman's Assistant

as Usherette

as Seamstress

as Music hall Dwarf

as Heckler

as Boxer's Manager

as Houdini Fan 1

as Houdini Fan 2

as Reporter 1

as Psychic Reporter

as Hotel Manager

as Concierge

as Chambermaid

as Ventriloquist

as Tap Dancer

as Psychic Twin

as Psychic Twin

as Matre d

as Autograph Hound

as Angel with Red Hair

as Police Chief

as Professor

as Professor's Assissta...

as Reporter 2

as Reporter 3

as Montreal Student
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Death Defying Acts

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (11)

All in all, it's a bit of a snore that falls back on romance when all else fails.

Full Review… | August 8, 2008
Time Out
Top Critic

Pearce's boys-adventure take on the vaudeville legend is a hoot, though not nearly as laughable as the dialogue or Zeta-Jones's pitiful attempts at basic emoting.

Full Review… | July 16, 2008
Time Out
Top Critic

What the film loses in momentum as the romance takes over, it gains in sex appeal as its two attractive actors make their own kind of magic.

Full Review… | July 11, 2008
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

All a 'what if' movie needs to win me over are some lush costumes and production design, a smart casting choice or two, and a really ridiculous basic idea. Death Defying Acts obliges on all fronts.

Full Review… | July 11, 2008
Top Critic

Director Gillian Armstrong is more attentive to decor than the story, which never seems in a hurry to get anyplace in particular and concludes with a thud.

Full Review… | July 11, 2008
New York Post
Top Critic

Zeta-Jones and Pearce don't have much chemistry, the script lacks any significant depth and the direction feels oddly uninspired.

Full Review… | July 11, 2008
New York Daily News
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Death Defying Acts


A fictitious account of Harold Houdini. It focuses on a love he has for a woman that claims to be psychic. Unfortunately the film is void of any real engagement or excitement. Zeta-Jones is fine, but never for a single second did I believe she was going to screw over Houdini. This left me with a rather predictable love story that I was hoping would hurry along. There was never a real sense of wonderment at Houdini's tricks, and the film tried to hard to pull away his showbiz facade. We are left with an interesting and emotionally frail man, but since it isn't juxtaposed against how he was perceived it wasn't particularly interesting. Saoirse Ronan shows why she is becoming a fantastic lead actress, but the majority of this just never peaks that high.

Luke Baldock

Super Reviewer


Overall this really is a pleasant and enjoyable film, but it is incredibly typical. There is nothing particuarly special about it, nor does it do anything unexpected. It is mediocre to the very end, but at the same time decent to watch. I picked this up because Saoise Ronan was in it, and she is so young and tiny! And at the same time, she is just as great and confincing as the rest of the cast. The film is extreamely atmospheric, that is the main thing that stood out to me. Well, and the score is decent. Other than that, everything is just... okay. The story is inoffensive, the acting is decent, the direction seems competant enough, but nothing is that extraordinary. I just wish there was more to grab ahold of, to rave or whine about. I would even like some major flaws if there were some killer virtues to go with them. I had never heard of this movie until actually watching it, and I cannot help but thing that there is a reason for that. So, I really cannot say that I recommend it, but at the same time I do not NOT recommend it... It is an odd blend. The film is decent enough, but you really are wasting your time in watching it. There is nothing to make you think, or make you feel. You will not be stimulated at all.

Jake ....

Super Reviewer

I was surprised that I have never head of this film before watching it. Overall, this was an entertaining movie. I enjoyed watching it, even thought there is not too much beneath the surface. This movie was a little drawn out at the end, but still, I thought it was better than most critics have given it credit for.

Jon Lantz

Super Reviewer

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