Mirageman [CL 2007]

Info: I embedded the full movie with automatically translated English subtitles below.

THE PLOT

Maco Gutiérrez, a bouncer in a shady strip club in Santiago de Chile, is an ordinary guy with a dark past – his parents were murdered during a robbery and his brother has been in a psychiatry ever since. Maco is obsessed with martial arts and fitness, counting calories, taking pills, and frequently working out. During one of his runs, he prevents a robbery and saving a young woman, Carol Valdivieso, from being raped. It turns out that Carol is a journalist and his actions receive broad coverage. When also his brother is inspired by his braveness, Maco decides to adopt the persona of a vigilante. As Mirageman he sets up a mail account and starts out helping the locals. However, when he goes against a pedophile ring, he nearly getskilled, which makes him realize that he overestimated his capabilities. Still, when Carol gets kidnapped again, he brings Mirageman out of retirement.

WHAT I LIKE

Although Mirageman is a low-budget superhero movie, there are some great action scenes to be found. Marko Zaror who portrays Mirageman is also a popular stuntman, which really shows in the quality of the fight scenes. His stunts, but also the frequent workout scenes are energetic and generally feel convincing, with long takes on the action and impressive choreography. But the movie also feels somewhat realistic, as some stunts look awkward, as they should in real life, e.g. when Mirageman stumbles after jumping from a parking deck, or when he cleans his mask in-between fights. In addition, the movie never takes itself too seriously, without becoming a straight-out comedy. There are some funny bits, e.g. when Maco puts on his costume for the first time, showing how impractical it is, or how his assignments are called missions, like in video games or superhero comic books (e.g., when he is joined by his sidekick Pseudo-Robin). Lastly, the morality of vigilante action is at least briefly discussed, which shows that the movie also partly operates on a deeper level.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

Some drawbacks hold the mentioned qualities back. For one, the cinematography is only mediocre: The handheld camera gives the movie a realistic look, but many indoor scenes are too dark and muddy, which makes the usually well-choreographed fights hard to see. During the outdoor fights, the camera movement is decent, but never really highlights the impressive stunt work. Also, while some fights are really well-done and feel dynamic (e.g., the fight against the handbag thieves), some are not as entertaining and make heavy use of the action movie trope, that the hero only ever fights against one individual at a time, when encountering a large group of people (e.g., in the fight against the teenage bullies). Lastly, while the comedic tones mostly work great, there are some moments that feel corny, i.e. the super-cut of his first missions. This results in Maco being a bland character, who rarely speaks, is easily outsmarted (e.g., the kidnapping of Carol), and whose real motivation is only hinted at in the last act (i.e., his second attempt at fighting the pedophile ring).

THE VERDICT

Mirageman is a low-budget action movie that focuses on a more or less realistic story of a bouncer turned vigilante. The independent production lacks in cinematography and the plot and the comedic undertones may not always work as effectively as they should. However, this doesn’t mean that Mirageman is simply a cheap copy of similarly themed movies like Kick-Ass [2010] with a considerably higher budget and well-known actors. The stunt work and choreography are impressive and the gritty performances make the movie feel realistic and compelling. The movie also never takes itself too seriously, which makes for some light-hearted and funny bits – that are also accompanied by some more serious discussions about the morality of vigilante actions in general. In total, Mirageman is a convincing and entertaining action movie package.

Overall 6/10

INTERESTING FACTS

 – In Chile, director Ernesto Díaz Espinoza is popular for his independent action movies, e.g. Kiltro [2006], Mirageman, or Redeemer [2014]. All three movie are also collaborations between Espinoza and Zaror.

 – There are numerous nods to superhero movies: the spinning paper trope (e.g., Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), a kissing scene that resembles the one in Spider-Man [2002], a romantic relationship towards a journalist as in Superman, Mirageman’s first costume and how he poses on rooftops resembles Spider-Man in the 1977 TV show, and a meeting with an undercover police officer as in Batman.

– In Germany, the movie was marketed as a Kick-Ass [2010] knock-off, titled Mirageman Kicks Ass, with a cover that straight out copies the former title.

– During a press conference at Fantastic Fest 2009, Zaror announced an American remake titled ”Defender 3D”. Zaror was to reprise his role and Andy Cheng was set to direct the movie. However, after funding issues both Zaror and Cheng have pursued different projects, meaning that the remake has effectively been shelved.

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