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Rick McGrath [Film Festival 10.19.08] movie review action comedy

Year: 2007
Director: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
Writers: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Dr. Nathan
Rating: 9 out of 10

Dr Nathan has a theory: the impact of satire is directly proportional to the size of the sacred cow being skewered. If you’re a big fan of superheroes, stop reading this right now.

However, if you love comedy based on ridicule, irony, exaggeration and an inexplicable foreign culture, then Mirageman (Chile, 2008) is just the kick to the head you’ve been looking for – with lots left over for your other vulnerable bits. How can I boil this down? OK, Mirageman is a long, hilarious spoof of western superhero culture, interspersed with brief periods of intensely violent mano à mano physical contact.

Written and directed by Ernesto Días Espinoza and starring Chilean stuntman Marko Zaror as Maco the Mirageman, this film also brings a few other goodies to the table – not the least being the unbelievable fact that all the action, including the bone-snapping fights, was shot without computer assistance, without wires, without doubles, and often without a script. That’s right. Apparently they just set up a camera and had Marko and his team of stuntmen have at it… which means when you see someone take a solid kick to the cranium and crumple to the concrete, they’re probably not faking it. Or they may be, as these cats are pro stunt dawgs, and there’s nothing like a little reality hype to butter up the bumpkins who want to believe everything they see. Does it matter, ultimately? Probably not, as Zaror is still an amazing physical talent, whipping off his artistic martial arts moves like some kind of brutal ballet as he vanquishes armies of gangsters and ninjas with lightspeed punches and gravity-defying, intricate spinning kicks. It would be worth it to buy the dvd just to watch the fight scenes in some kind of slo-mo.

What can I say? When the bodies stop twitching it’s apparent Mirageman offers up some incredible martial arts battles, but they’re just whipped cream on the steaming pile of satire that comprises most of the movie.

Howso, you ask? Well, the good doctor doesn’t want to give away the plot, but if you actually think of all the brouhaha our standard superheroes take for granted, you’re on the right track. Designing and creating a costume isn’t as easy as you might think. Especially if you’re poor and scrape out a living being a bouncer at a strip club. Neither is changing into it, as we’re hilariously shown in one scene, with Mirageman struggling to get his pants off and into his costume before confronting some street punks over a snatched purse. Even funnier is his return when he discovers his clothes and money have been stolen and he’s forced to hitch a ride home on the back of a garbage truck. I’d love to see Bruce Wayne do that.

Always behind the curve, Mirageman receives most of his info from TV news broadcasts, most of which ridicule him, and he improbably receives his calls for help by email, including endless solicitations from a superhero wannabe called “Pseudo-Robin” who is completely, hilariously useless – except for the fact he has a couple of motorcycles, which we later discover he doesn’t actually own. Wacky.

And that’s just a couple examples of many.

All of which leads us to the most fascinating aspect of this flick: the stupendous gulf that separates and yet balances the dichotomy between high concept and low reality in the superhero genre. As the opposite of the standard Good Guy – I kept thinking Batman – writer Espinoza has created a kind of everyman with muscles for brains who ultimately sacrifices himself not for personal glory, nor even for a better society, but because his mentally-disturbed younger brother only comes out of his catatonic state when the cold meal of revenge is on the menu. Yeah, there’s a good bit of guilt as a condiment.

Even Mirageman’s name is an exercise in irony. The unlikely moniker is given to him by self-centered news reporter Carol Valdivieso (sexily played by Maria Elena Swett), who initially reports on her TV show she was saved by a man who appeared and disappeared like a mirage. Now, a mirage is an actual optical phenomenon, but it’s also something which appears real, but isn’t. Yeah, we get it.

Technically, Mirageman is better than you’d perhaps expect. Marko Zaror is a surprisingly competent actor for a stunt double, and while he doesn’t talk much he is able to convey much emotion through a varied repertoire of expressions and body language. Maria Swett is gorgeous eye candy with a self-centered streak that comes back to haunt her, and Iván Jara plays Pseudo-Robin to lowball perfection. Even the bad guys are recycled, with the same losing fighters appearing over and over in different guises – street gang, ninjas, pedophile ring. It’s great.

The camerawork is generally of a high quality, with the action scenes helped along with a lot of jerky handheld footage (not as bad as it sounds), and most of the movie takes place in the slums and barrios of Santiago, so there’s the added fun of an exotic location.

The Doctor’s prescription? If this movie was a tonic I’d say take a long pull of Mirageman the next time you start being sucked into the vortex of costumed moral vigilantes. They may appear real, but they’re not.

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roto (13 years ago) Reply

this is simply the best superhero movie ever!!
Taxi driver and spider man tv series from the 70s. simply the best


Mr.Jagil (13 years ago) Reply

Where the heck can i see this? :/


funcrusher (13 years ago) Reply

my girlfriend and i got into a huge fight saturday morning so i fucked off to the toronto fc match instead of going to mirageman with her, but she said this movie was rad.


Mikan (13 years ago) Reply

Oh, please, Santiago isn't exotic. It's a common city, it's just that it looks ugly most of the time and we have some delinquency problems.
That probably sounded mean, Sorry, not my intention, it's just that I'm Chilean and I think it's funny when people think of my country as exotic, I've seen people surprised to realize that we have cable TV.
Well, I'm glad this movie was shown out of the country (and that you liked it), because it's something completely different from what filmmakers normally do here, so maybe this will make Chilean directors realize that there are many plots out there to be portrayed in films, that they just need to dare to be original.

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