Death Defying Acts (2008) - Rotten Tomatoes

Death Defying Acts2008

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.

Death Defying Acts Photos

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.

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Guy Pearce
as Harry Houdini
Catherine Zeta-Jones
as Mary McGarvie
Timothy Spall
as Mr. Sugarman
Jack Bailey
as Red Haired Pilot
Malcolm Shields
as Leith Romeo
Leni Harper
as Leith Romeo's
Ralph Riach
as Mr. Robertson
Olivia Darnley
as Flower Stall Seller
James Holmes
as Ugly Mug
Anthony O'Donnell
as Oily Librarian
Aaron Brown
as Sugarman's Assistant
Aileen O'Gorman
as Seamstress
Billy McColl
as Usherette
Raymond Griffiths
as Music hall Dwarf
Shaun Mason
as Heckler
Tom Cotcher
as Boxer's Manager
Joanne Cummins
as Houdini Fan 1
Carol Robb
as Houdini Fan 2
Mark Carter
as Reporter 1
MacKay Crawford
as Psychic Reporter
Paul Grunert
as Hotel Manager
Martin Fisher
as Concierge
Emma Humprhies
as Chambermaid
Miles Jupp
as Ventriloquist
Tim Frost
as Tap Dancer
Chloe Mackie
as Psychic Twin
Holly Mackie
as Psychic Twin
David McKail
as Matre d
Maev Alexander
as Autograph Hound
Richard Dean Anderson
as Angel with Red Hair
Rod Arthur
as Police Chief
Alan David
as Professor
Lorraine Hilton
as Professor's Assisstant
Dodger Phillips
as Reporter 2
Campbell Graham
as Reporter 3
Justin Flagg
as Montreal Student
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Critic Reviews for Death Defying Acts

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (19)

Any magic is instantly dispelled by the dead hand of a tirelessly pouting Zeta-Jones, whose slap boasts more layers than her talent.

August 8, 2008

It's all a touch undercooked and dull.

August 8, 2008 | Rating: 2/5

It's a movie that seems to have been lavished with care and performed with gusto, yet its tale of fakery sounds its own knell: there's not a believable moment in it.

August 8, 2008 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

And while less magical than The Prestige, it's perfectly charming matinée fare.

August 8, 2008 | Full Review…

The movie is over-schematic, slow-moving and over-furnished. It never seems to come alive with any believable interplay of characters; the movie locks itself into a watertight tank of a premise, and the handcuffs won't come off.

August 8, 2008 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Houdini's mission to debunk fake spiritualists is hijacked by this wholly fraudulent love story. There's not a moment in the film that feels honest and uncontrived.

August 8, 2008 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Death Defying Acts


This seemed destined for a main stream release and it has all the features of a generally popular film. For some reason, it never got that full Hollywood treatment so only a few of us got to see this mediocre gem with few shining parts.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


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
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 ....
Jake ....

Super Reviewer

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