- A television journalist, reporting on Mirageman: "Witnesses say that the individual is taller than 6'3," of muscular build, and was wearing a ridiculous, somewhat feminine, outfit."
In crime-ridden Santiago, Chile, Maco Gutierrez (Marco Zaror) lives a solitary existence. When not doing that nightly grind as a club bouncer, he mostly confines himself at home and works out like mad and hones his martial arts skills. He also regularly visits his institutionalized younger brother, a victim of a brutal assault (as was Maco). It all changes when, while out jogging one evening, Maco thwarts a home invasion. The beautiful woman he rescues turns out to be a local television reporter, and she promptly submits a piece about her mysterious savior (Maco had gotten a hold of a mask).
This broadcast is seen by Maco's traumatized brother and there is a startling improvement in his near catatonic behavior. The image of the mysterious savior has captured his imagination and this causes him to be more engaged. An encouraged Maco goes home and he begins to dream up colorful code names and costumes. I guess this is one of the more believable superhero origins you'll ever see, and a realistic documentation of a superhero's evolution if that superhero has got the cashflow of a boxcar hobo.
MIRAGEMAN is one of them rare things: a Chilean superhero martial arts movie, and it's so humbly budgeted. Ergo, it presents a shabby and yet thoroughly endearing aesthetic. It's got a sense of humor about itself and provides chuckles as Maco gropes his way in his new calling, and we're treated to some spiffy lines if the sub-titles hold true. Everything is low rent. He advertises his services thru the Internet, and he gets to his missions by taking the bus, and I guess it's one way to patrol the mean streets of Santiago. To demonstrate how a day in the superhero gig might go, while in pursuit of a purse snatcher, Maco stops in an alley to change into costume and winds up fumbling with his mask and having to wrestle a leg out of one pants leg. No quick switcheroo in a phone booth here. He beats down the purse snatcher and other goons and returns to the alley only to find that his regular clothes had been stolen. Mirageman ends up trying to thumb a ride home. If you've ever wondered how a superhero is supposed to act while just strolling around, well, Mirageman demonstrates, and it's a hoot watching him strike those exaggerated superhero poses. Temporarily but inevitably, he gains a sidekick, but a seriously lame one.
But there's no superficiality in Marco Zaror's martial arts. He does his own fighting, and he does it in real time. None of that slo-mo or sped-up nonsense. And, surprisingly, he's got some flash in his game. He exudes a physical presence, and there is conviction and flair in how he delivers his licks. It's hard to tell if Zaror has the acting chops. He doesn't have a lot of dialogue in this one; he seems to be a pretty self-effacing guy. But there are key moments in which he conveys emotion powerfully, and mostly without words. I wish, though, that Maco had gone with one of the catchier names he'd jotted down on that list of potential superhero names, instead of "Mirageman." "Hombre Silueta" or "La Sombra" or "Dr. Espejismo" - any of these crackles with more resonance.
And just when the film's got you comfortably thinking you've got it all figured out, the tone suddenly shifts from lighthearted camp to something pretty dark. To echo what would probably happen in real life, Mirageman's crusade is met with derision and skepticism by both press and public, and the movie infuses a satiric element into these moments. Every superhero must endure a rite of passage. It's inevitable, I guess, that Mirageman's becoming a public figure would make him prey to exploitation. And since his only "super power" is to punch hard and kick fiercely, it's only a matter of time before he bites off more than he can chew. Mirageman is compelled to up the ante and he adds blades and wrist armor to his arsenal. Without access to spiffy special effects, the action sequences amount to a series of mean, crunching street brawls. Which is absolutely fine by me. Although one wishes that Mirageman had been given a worthy adversary or at least some colorful villains. Instead he just beats up on street hoods. Maybe if he'd gone with "La Sombra" or "Dr. Espejismo," he would've garnered a Doctor Doom-type nemesis. But, oh, I forgot about the budget. The bare-bones story has got this unpretentious charm about it, and it's also funny. The fights may not be inventive and they may be simply staged, but they're effective and there's a dynamism there invoked by Marco Zaror's moves and imposing figure. MIRAGEMAN, to me, rates around 3 or 3.5 out of 5 stars. I don't know that it's worth a buy, but it's certainly worth eyeballing.