Death Defying Acts

Release Date: July 11, 2008
Limited release

Don't jump. There's a John G. out there somewhere!

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2006 was the year of the magician, but someone forgot to give the The Weinstein Co. the memo. How else are we to explain the release of Death Defying Acts, a movie recounting a fictional story about Harry Houdini’s mother issues? BOP is confused by the choice of subject matter, considering that The Illusionist and The Prestige have largely covered this ground. Given the studio’s decision to dump this $20 million production in only a few major metropolitan areas before releasing it on DVD, it looks like the distributor agrees with us. On the off chance you are in one of the handful of locations who will get a chance to watch this on the big screen, here is what you need to know.

Guy Pearce, uncomfortable with his celebrity as he is, has chosen yet another small project in a nearly constant attempt to diminish his recognition factor. In this outing, he portrays the noted escape artist Houdini. In this version of events, he misses his mommy, the poor lil' fella. Unable to attend the woman’s funeral and apparently still wincing over a lack of breast feeding as a child, the magician makes a weird offer. He seeks to discover a psychic medium whom can contacts the spirits beyond in order to unearth his mother’s final words. Anyone who is able to do so will be paid the princely sum of $10,000.

Enter Mary and Benji McGarvie (Catherine Zeta-Jones and Saoirse Ronan), a destitute mother/daughter tandem. They are a pair of con artists who proclaim to have this very talent. While mama hides out in the back, daughter dearest interacts with the pre-show crowd. Along the way, she determines various aspects of their lives that allow her mother to fake otherworldly knowledge to the crowd. In, they’re running the same long con as John Edward on Sci-Fi Channel.

Skeptical of their intentions, Houdini’s manager and confidante, Sugarman, attempts to run interference for his boss. Knowing the man has a blind spot for the deceased Mrs. Houdini, his key advisor is particularly troubled by the alluring Mary and her preternaturally mature daughter, Benji. After several attempts to keep the women away from his boss, Sugarman is eventually forced to relent. Houdini, presumably having seen Entrapment, quickly falls for Mary. Will the mother/child duo continue to attempt to bilk the man out of the money anyway or will love win out? Dozens of you will be able to find out for sure during the theatrical run of Death Defying Acts. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for Death Defying Acts
Main Cast Guy Pearce, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Timothy Spall
Supporting Cast Saoirse Ronan
Director Gillian Armstrong
Screenwriter Tony Grisoni, Brian Ward
Distributor Third Rail Releasing
Screen Count 2
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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