If you could take a copy of Mirageman and go back in time to release it in the 1970s, besides destroying the space-time continuum, you'd seamlessly integrate Marko Zaror into the pantheon of martial-arts legends, as the film is an excellent throwback to the chop-socky action films of the era, while adding a modern take on the superhero story.
Zaror plays Maco, a strip-club bouncer with a troubled past and a little brother who lives in a hospital due to a traumatic attack that left them orphaned. Much like Batman, being a victim gave Maco a laser-like focus to hone his body, so no one could hurt him again. Unlike Batman, he doesn't have a lot of resources, so when he comes across a robbery in progress, there are no batarangs or utility belts. There's just a severe ass-kicking that saves Carol (María Elena Swett), a popular TV personality, from being raped.
Inspired by the experience and Carol's on-air response, Maco begins to craft a superhero persona, starting with a humorous trip to a thrift store to find a costume. Taking on a small gang of purse snatchers, following one of the most excruciating costume changes in film history, he establishes himself as a vigilante, even putting his e-mail address out for requests. It's probably one of the most honest portrayals of what would happen if someone actually tried to be a superhero in real life, complete with him getting jerked around by punks, which results in a sweet Warriors-like battle royale throughout a housing complex.
As he becomes well-known as Mirageman, and improves his home-brew costume, the media takes an increasing interest in his activities, which is where the film gets things right, as the public both trusts and fears the masked man, resulting in him becoming a TV star, without his cooperation. Carol's interest in Mirageman isn't purely adoring either, as the superhero genre gets a new media update, with news exposes and reality shows serving as the new supervillains. Throw in a Patton Oswalt-like wanna-be sidekick who complicates Mirageman's quest, and the film turns a very real lens onto the concept of a modern hero.
While waging war against the fourth estate, Mirageman is also tasked with helping officials fight a pedophile ring that's kidnapped a young girl. It's one of many battles Zaror fights in the film, but the way it works out shows the strengths of his collaborations with writer/director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza. A cinema verite style puts you right in the middle of the fights, and you can never be sure what's going to happen, because their heroes can and do get defeated (as seen in Kiltro.) It's a much darker segment than the rest of the movie, but it makes sense in the context of the film, as Mirageman becomes a darker hero, and his methods become increasingly violent.
Espinoza turned down the visual style in this film, from the stunning imagery in Kiltro, but pumped up the funk-heavy soundtrack and high-octane action, resulting in a blend of Danger: Diabolik and '70s kung-fu flicks, but with a reality that grounds them in the current era. Though the film is obviously inspired by the past, there's a freshness to it all, especially when you watch Zaror work his way through his opponents. There are several moments where he'll come up with a new way to beat someone down that will make you say "Wow," out loud. One kick he delivers so defies the laws of physics, you will think there had to be computer editing involved, but it's simply the speed and agility of "The Latin Dragon." Perhaps in 30 years, college kids will have posters of Mirageman on their dorm walls, where Bruce Lee's yellow jumpsuit hangs now.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.