It is 1926. Harry Houdini (Pearce) is the most famous performer in the world. Audiences flock to watch him perform death-defying acts. The “man behind the performer” is a different story. It has been 13 years since Houdini’s beloved mother passed away. His greatest regret is he was not at his mother’s bedside when she died and did not hear her last words. This haunts Houdini, so much so that he offers a $10,000 reward to anyone who can contact his mother from beyond the grave and reveal her dying secret.
Enter Mary McGregor (Zeta-Jones) and her young daughter Benji. Poor and uneducated, they live in the slums of Edinburgh. To survive, Mary uses her feminine wiles and deceptive ways in a psychic act that is part burlesque and part occult. Benji gathers information on audience members any way she can; by stealing, breaking and entering, or sneaking into public records; then Mary uses this information to convince the audience that she can communicate with their deceased loved ones.
When Mary and Benji learn of Houdini’s cash reward, they set their sights on the world’s greatest escape artist as their ultimate target. But our hero isn’t such an easy mark, and is protected by his manager Sugarman. As Houdini spends more time with Mary, her charms overwhelm him, and he soon realizes that he’s falling in love with this mysterious woman. Sugarman tries to break up the relationship by offering them money to go away. But what began as a con has evolved into something much more complicated and dangerous; and as our hero attempts the most spectacular stunt of his career, everyone wants to know…how will the Great Houdini escape? – in “Death Defying Acts.”