When I hear about a movie called, “Death Defying Acts”, and find that it’s a movie about escape artist Harry Houdini, I will admit that I make certain assumptions. When I find the trailer for said movie, and see a fast-paced series of action-filled scenes, I make further assumptions. Unfortunately, the movie I watched met few if any of my expectations.
Don’t get me wrong–this film was simply beautiful to look at, and I am quick to appreciate this time period and how it is so often portrayed visually. Maybe I was just spoiled (again!) by The Prestige, or maybe I was plagued by mistaken assumptions about Houdini, but I had a very difficult time enjoying this movie. The pacing was almost painfully slow at times, and I just couldn’t buy Guy Pearce as Houdini. Like I said, perhaps I just didn’t understand the kind of person Houdini actually was. This confusion is not dis-similar from what many people felt about the current movie adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. But in this case, particularly since this movie was called Death Defying Acts, and it shows a fair amount of stage work in the trailer, I honestly didn’t expect the kind of film I actually saw. Suffice to say, the “death defying acts” referenced in the title had nothing to do with Houdini’s prowess as an escape artist.
I would explore the plot in a bit more detail here, but honestly, it can be summed up so quickly that I don’t dare to discuss it more for fear of spoiling the film for those who would choose to see it. The actors themselves were every bit as beautiful as the scenery, and they knew it. It was almost like they were directed to give their lines in as lovely a manner as they could muster, without giving much thought to the emotions behind the scenes. Perhaps it was the fact that the main characters were both performers, but they didn’t seem too eager to indulge in an honest relationship with one another. I didn’t believe that Mary (Catherine Zeta-Jones’ character) cared for anyone–her daughter, or Houdini. She was just out for herself. Or maybe I’m still just irked that this film was absolutely nothing like I had expected.
To that end: I understand that film producers are just as emboldened as anyone else by the power of advertising, and I understand that films need to be successful, revenue-generating products. However, I am a firm believer that you should advertise for the product you have, not the product you think people want. Better yet, the two should be one and the same. Even though I know the goal of producing a movie is to fill the seats, it is not enough to simply bring people to the theater. The adage about leaving people wanting more very much rings true. The only thing I wanted more of after seeing this movie was the time I wasted in viewing it.