Movie review: 'Desperate Acts of Magic' conjures absurd love triangle

In "Desperate Acts of Magic," no one is dealing with a full deck. Wannabe magician Jason (Joe Tyler Gold, also the writer and co-director) is determined to win prestidigitation's most prestigious competition, but who should be his partner? Torn between the manic magic groupie (Sascha Alexander) and the sexy pickpocket (Valerie Dillman), Gold has performed the ultimate sleight of hand: casting himself as the hottie in a ludicrous love triangle. That is, of course, if he can prevent best frenemy Steve (Jonathan Levit) from poaching the ladies using his infamous kissing act.

There's novelty in a romantic comedy that uses card tricks as foreplay — not to mention some Houdini-esque bondage, and the "Desperate Acts of Magic" cast appear to do most of their own stunts. The trade-off is that the actors are better at making coins disappear than emoting, though brassy blond Dillman is as lively as a hat full of rabbits. (Oh, and she can pierce her stomach with a foot-long needle.)

While the plot is a non-starter, the margins of Gold and co-director Tammy Caplan's debut feature are scattered with other real-life magicians who make quarters vanish every time our attention does the same. What lingers aren't the script's hazy thoughts about love and friendship, but one feminist question: Why train to be a second-billed, bikini-clad assistant if it means smiling as your self-esteem gets sawed in half?


"Desperate Acts of Magic." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood


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