Thursday 18 January 2018

Houdini review - 'shackled by a truly dreadful script'

Adrien Brody as Harry Houdini
Adrien Brody as Harry Houdini

Pat Stacey

One of the first lines Adrien Brody delivers in Houdini is: “They say when you’re going to die, your whole life flashes before your eyes.” Boy, is he telling the truth!

**

The great escapologist’s life does indeed flash before his (and our) eyes in the first chunk of this two-parter, and at such whooshing, breakneck speed that you barely have time to breathe, let alone think.

That’s probably just as well. Think too much and you realise that Houdini, made by America’s History Channel, is really quite terrible.

The likeable Brody is suitably frizzy-haired, energetic and athletic in the lead, if less chunky than the real Harry Houdini, aka Erich Weiss, but he’s weighted down by dialogue that clanks more than the chains binding him as he plummets in the opening scene into a frozen river swarming with flashbacks and clichés.

And then there’s the appalling voiceover. Houdini drones monotonously on for the full two hours, repeatedly hammering home the point that he’s spent his entire life trying to escape, from his past, from his present, from himself. I know exactly how he felt.

Houdini has its good points. It looks fabulously lavish and we get to see all his major illusions, as well as the secrets of how he pulled them off. But, by God, it does go on. Perhaps it will improve when it gets to Houdini’s obsession with the occult and his friendship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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