Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Every time I watch a film directed by Gillian Armstrong I find that at the end of it I just want to shrug and say, is that it? DEATH DEFYING ACTS is no exception. Although, seemingly, aimed at cinema audiences (despite being co-financed by the BBC) this Australian production has the rather bland feel of a made-for-television feature. The story involves an Edinburgh music hall performer (Catherine Zeta Jones) who tries to con Harry Houdini out of $30,000 when he visits the city but instead ends up having an affair with him. None of it is very convincing with CZJ coming off worse that Guy Pearce who nevertheless is pretty unbelievable as Houdini (although you have to give him credit for that haircut). The interior scenes look pretty good but the exteriors suffer from the same problem as many of the cheaper historical dramas that take a few old buildings and film scenes from different angles - thus the slum where CZJ lives early in the film is actually the basement of a more up market building with a few washing lines as set dressing. The film has a touch of the supernatural thrown in but this seemed quite confused to my poor brain as the rest of the film never really decides what it wants to be and doesn't convince on any level. Best Performace comes from the ever reliable Timothy Spall as Houdini's manager. Rating *

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