If only Marco Zaror had been born two decades earlier the man would have found himself with a much more promising action career. As it stands now, there isn't much call for employment of hunky meatslab actors with martial and acrobatic skills. In the heyday of the 80's and 90's action boom, there was a place for guys like Zaror. I could see the him in a Bruno Mattei Nam shoot 'em up (imagine the boxcover tagline: Zaror Goes To War!), a gonzo Arizal Filipino action number, maybe Godfrey Ho ninja film, an Italian post-apocalypse or barbarian flick, and surely the doors of Cannon films would have been open to casting him as a thug or a monosyllabic lead.
Following Kiltro, Mirageman (2007) stands as the second film from the Chilean duo of star, Zaror, and writer/director Ernesto Díaz Espinoza. Its another low budget number and in terms of plotting simplicity, it sticks to a skeletal frame that, I imagine, would have been easier to manage over their debut film.
Zaror plays Maco, a slab of muscle who saw his parents robbed and killed and his little brother raped in front of his eyes. Though he tried to fight back, Maco could not save them and grew up into a quiet bouncer who spends most of his days enduring abuse from his scummy employer before going home to beat the Hell out of his training dummies. One night while on a run, Maco thwarts the robbery and rape of tv reporter Carol Valdivieso (María Elena Swett) which ignites the consciousness of the public and his previously catatonic brother, so Maco sets out to be a superhero.
Mirageman's idea of a real world superhero is, like Watchmen or Special, well-explored territory in comics and a lesser degree film. We even live in a day and age where functional-but-delusional guys are taking their cosplay a little too seriously and forming neighborhood watch/vigilante groups and patrolling streets in their costumes. Though, it is safe to say I haven't seen a self-appointed urban ninja as intimidating as Zorar.
Espinoza initially mines the idea comedically. Maco's first Mirageman crime is a simple purse robbery. He chases the perp into an alley but then struggles in real time to put on his costume and round the corner. The scenes intent is obvious. Superman deftly rushes into a phone booth and merges a split second later in full regalia. Mirageman squats behind a dumpster and struggles to get his pants off, mask straight, etc, and even when he does beatdown the thief and his buddies, Mirageman goes back to his changing spot and finds all of his clothes were stolen. He then must hitch a ride home on the back of a trash truck.
There are more sly touches and, of course, obligatory action scenes, but the film also juggles the idea of a real superhero soberly. Mirageman gets, briefly, a sidekick in a delusional, dumpy fanboy who calls himself Pseudo-Robin. Mirageman is exploited by Carol to become famous, even going so far as to dupe him by arranging her kidnapping, rescue, and Mirageman unmasking as a reality show. Mirageman's main crime-busting effort involves taking down a "pedophilia ring" and rescuing a kidnapped girl. He goes from romantically using his body, fists and kicks, to being forced to employ knives and armor with gruesome results. Its safe to say, the film's world does not treat this super hero very kindly.
The action quotient is higher than in Kiltro. Unfortunately, while the skill is clear, most of it is fairly unmemorable. Much of this probably is the fault of the budget, there simply being no time and money to choreograph beyond the basics. Its an odd criticism for a comic book based film but Zaror being hidden beneath a mask is a bit of a letdown and adds to some of the action scenes feeling a bit rote and personality free. This is compounded by the fact that all of his enemies are of the random thug variety. While in some scenes this is purposeful, like the reality show setup where most of the baddies are black clad and ski-masked, it also extends to all of the other bad guys. There is no central face or villain, no colorful henchman even, so the clashes become mostly a blur of some okay moves with little dramatic weight, save for Mirageman's third act redemption moment.
The action and ideas are good but what Espinoza really needs is a another hand in developing his ideas and the final conception. Mirageman gets most of its exposition and plot points moving via news reports, both tv and newspaper clips. The tv stuff feels relatively authentic, but the newspaper/tabloid effect is dated and hokey, a joke angle that the film should have avoided. So, for instance, you are presented with a decent scene but rather than build with another to get things moving, the film cuts to a tv clip or spinning headline to progress the film along. Lazy.
As with Kiltro, Espinoza has a problem juggling his serious and fanciful/comic tones and is too transparent in minimalizing the hurdles for his limited lead actor- Zorar literally says next to nothing and spends most of the film silently brooding. Maybe the man cannot act, but even Ferrigno carried a few c-grade action movies with the help of dubbers and his muscle. The story and concept is exceedingly simple yet the execution is clumsy. In Kiltro Espinoza & Co. tried to do too much, juggle too many genre nods and stylistic turns, while in Mirageman they had a more simplistic idea and still managed a similar muddle.
The DVD: Magnolia
Mirageman is a low budget film and one finds some of the usual photographic complaints with the Anamorphic Widescreen print. While the film is intentionally grainy and raw, some sequences exhibit moments where it is a tad too soft or the color is a tad washed out. The most frequent complaint comes from some low lighting quirks and murky contrast. Technically, there is also a problem with some aliasing shimmer.
The DVD boasts four tracks, two 2.0 and 5.1 Spanish tracks and two 2.0 and 5.1 English dub tracks with optional English subtitles. The audio mix doesn't exactly thrill or amaze. Atmospherics and fx are relatively stock and the dialogue often has some echo on the post-added tracks. The real missive is that Mirageman is horribly scored, again a question of tone, with some really horrible jazz, lounge, funk. Subtitles are good, well-timed with no grammatical errors.
The sole extra, other than the obligatory trailers, is a too brief behind the scenes featurette that clocks in at just over three minutes.
It is a real no-brainer how to make a successful action movie: deliver the action at a decent clip and keep your characters colorful enough to sustain some interest. Mirageman has everything going for it, a great premise about a hard reality clashing with superhero fantasy and a physically skilled star to deliver the action. The film has some entertaining action and novel ideas but in terms of main character and overall plotting the results are just a bit too half-baked. The DVD is an underwhelming affair, so I'd have to suggest this as an okay rental for martial action and comic film fans looking for a weekend diversion.