The beautifully made The Illusionist and The Prestige set the bar high for magician movies. Unfortunately this leaves the average Death Defying Acts trailing behind. The film's A-list protagonists Guy Pearce and Catherine Zeta-Jones, plus Atonement's rising star Saoirse Ronan, promise much. But the weak plot lacks dramatic tension and pace, making the film drag. Harry Houdini (Pearce) is perhaps the greatest illusionist and escape artist of all time. But the movie skimps on his fascinating career and examines his personal life, with some groundless premises. Houdini offers a fortune to any psychic who can recite his mother's last words. While in Edinburgh, he meets con-artist psychic Mary McGarvin (Zeta-Jones) and her bright daughter Benji (Ronan). He is immediately charmed, and refuses to admit the pair is out to con him. Told through the eyes of the child Benji, who narrates the story, Death Defying Acts has strengths: Cezary Skubiszewski's melodramatic background music, Ronan's natural acting and director Gillian Armstrong's ability to capture emotionally provocative images. Unfortunately, all other aspects are mere illusions.