After being brutally assaulted, an incident which also saw the death of his parents and the rape of his younger brother (which mentally scarred him to the point of having to be institutionalized), Maco Gutierrez has devoted his life to fitness and practicing martial arts to ensure his safety in the future. Out on an evening run, he stumbles onto a robbery in progress and manages to single-handedly take down all three of the evil-doers. The next day, the incident is all over the news due to the fact that the woman he saved was a reporter by the name of Carol Valdivieso. Maco thinks nothing of it, but when he goes to visit his brother and sees that after viewing the news footage he’s gotten out of bed and is showing more of a spark than he has since the rape, Maco decides to try and be a vigilante hero. Crafting his own costume and gadgets, he takes to the streets and starts taking out the trash with ease under the guise of Mirageman. The whole affair becomes a media sensation, and Maco’s life is about to become a real circus.
Taking on a heavy tongue-in-cheek approach that’s very reminiscent of 60’s action / spy cinema such as Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik and grindhouse chop-sockey, Mirageman oozes charm and evokes nostalgia from the very start. I was honestly waiting for John Phillip Law to poke his head around a corner or a group of Charlie’s Angels-esque bombshells to strike a pose at any second. There are all sorts of cool psychedelic split-screen effects, cheesy action-hero posturing, and against-all-odds ass-kicking throughout, and add in the funky 70’s inspired soundtrack, and Mirageman really feels like a true genre throwback.
But thankfully, Mirageman has much more to offer; it doesn’t simply rest on its obviously homage-heavy premise. Unlike the films of yesteryear that were so entertaining and funny because they took themselves deadly serious, Mirageman is self-aware of that fact and pokes fun at itself, which leads to a completely different sort of comedy. Watching Maco slink around attempting to be stealthy, and witnessing him struggle to quickly shed his street clothes so he can pounce into action is a blast. One scene in particular sees Maco about to face-off against a group of break-dancers who challenge him to a fight just to see if he has the guts to show up. Well, Maco does arrive via a bridge high atop where the gang is located, and in an effort to look super cool, leaps off the bridge…and hurts his leg. Its great moments like this that really make Mirageman stand out, and they’re pulled off with such skill that the film manages to tip-toe around being simply a spoof.
I’d be doing this review a disservice by not mentioning the action sequences, since they’re really quite impressive, especially for a film that was clearly produced on a very small scale. I’ve seen a lot of complaints directed at the action in director Ernesto Díaz Espinoza and star Marko Zaror’s first collaboration Kiltro, which has to do with the scenes in question being far too produced with tons of effects that hamper the viewer in seeing what's going on. And while I can’t personally comment since I haven’t seen the film, I can quell your reservations if you have any for Mirageman; there’s nothing of the sort here. All of the action is shot with stationary cameras, with no special techniques nor any special effects applied (outside of a color-bleached scene that only sets the mood and has no bearing on the combat). This makes for some great gritty hand-to-hand confrontations that should definitely pique the interest of fight film fans. Oh, and there’s comedy in this action too: wait until you get a load of Pseudo-Robin, a fat comic book nerd that wants only to be Mirageman’s sidekick. He eventually gets his wish, which leads to one of the funniest fight scenes in a long time.
Sadly there is one glaring element that holds Mirageman back from being truly superb, and that’s the unfortunate decision to take the film in a very serious direction for the final act. It’s a no-brainer that a superhero with no actual powers and one that is left to his own devices to craft his gear (there’s no trust fund at Maco’s disposal to assist his vigilantism) will eventually face a sobering reality, regardless of the playful tone the rest of the film takes on. This isn’t really my gripe; what is is that it’s taken way too seriously, to the point of melodramatics and cliché heartstring-tugging. It’s obvious that Espinoza handles action and comedy much better than he does drama, and forcing this aspect of the film down his viewer’s throats, especially at the end where it’s the last thing that will linger in their minds, wasn’t the wisest of decisions.
Despite that misstep, there’s a whole lot going on in Mirageman that’s more good than bad, and those elements of quality are so good that it’s hard to really fault the film too much for the late stumbling block it hits. Espinoza shows mounds of promise, Zaror is a budding action star that’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch, and this is just pure escapist fun at its core. Hopefully lessons were learned, and like any good superhero, Mirageman will be back dealing out justice in even better fashion sometime in the future.
Magnolia Pictures presents Mirageman on DVD in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The print is in great shape, with vibrant colors and no print damage at all. The film looks very good for being low-budget, and the transfer does the film complete justice. Likewise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is pretty damn impressive, with a lot of directionality that has the jazzy score sounding great, and overall gives some nice extra oomph to the fight scenes. Audio is also available in 5.1 English, but being a purist you can guess I didn’t bother. Optional English subtitles are nicely done and free of errors. The only extra is a behind the scenes featurette that’s far too short at only 3-minutes. Considering how intense some of the action in the film is, it would have been nice to have seen more. Still, the film itself is more than worth the price of admission.
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