Monday, 3 May 2010

Mirageman (2007)

The Blue Beetle movie took a few liberties
with the costume.

I heard this film being compared to Kick-Ass and that it did the real-life superhero thing a lot better, so I thought I'd check it out. It's directed by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and stars Marko Zaror, a Chilean duo who previously teamed up for the martial arts film Killtro. Zaror is also due to fight opposite Scott Adkins in Undisputed 3 (and, if the series follows tradition, be the protagonist in Undisputed 4) so I figured it would be worth getting acquainted with his body of work.

Zaror plays Maco, a bouncer at a strip club (and avid martial artist) whose parents were killed in a violent robbery when he was a child. His little brother was traumatised by the incident and is now a patient in a mental instituion. One day Maco is out jogging and sees some a guy in a ski mask robbing a house. Without warning he kicks the guy in the head, puts on his ski mask and enters the house, where he beats up a couple more guys who are about to rape the occupant. After untying the woman he disappears, but it turns out that the victim is Carol Valdivieso (MarĂ­a Elena Swett), a local TV journalist, and that night she personally thanks her savior, calling him a "real-life superhero". Maco's little brother sees the news report and comes out of his shell a little, so Maco decides to buy a costume and do some more crimefighting in the hope that his brother's condition will improve.

The plot of this film is pretty generic, but there are some clever and funny touches. This guy doesn't have any transportation, he isn't Bruce "I wipe my ass on $100 bills" Wayne, so he has to ride the bus like a chump. To start with his costume is just a mish-mash of stuff he picked up at the sporting goods store (the newsreaders call it "somewhat effeminate") but even when he gets his "real" costume it's still pretty lo-fi, just some gloves, an ordinary jacket and a home-made mask with some mirrored lenses. At one point he chases a pursesnatcher into an alley and then the camera holds on him for several excruciating minutes as he changes out of his civillian clothes and into his superhero outfit. He beats up the thieves, but when he returns he finds his civillian clothes have been stolen. Superheroin' ain't easy.

Like in Kick-Ass he sets up an email account so people can contact him for help, but his first request is just some young punks setting a trap so they can to start some shit. He walks into another email trap later, so I guess he didn't learn his lesson the first time. Mostly he just patrols the streets waiting for crimes to happen. There's a scene where he hides behind a corner as some guy approaches a newstand, and then when he steals a chocolate bar Mirageman whips his foot out and kicks him in the head. Was Mirageman following this guy around for hours, just waiting for him to commit a crime, or is that particular newsstand a hotspot of petty theft? Who knows?

They've got the typical man-on-the-street interviews from most vigilante/superhero films, but I was surprised at how critical they were. Usually there a smattering of people who support the one-man-war-on-crime, but the only people who seem to be happy about Mirageman are a couple of goofy-looking teenagers and a chubby nerd who wants to be his "Pseudo-Robin". It only gets worse from there, since it turns out that the TV reporter he saved earlier is actually a horrible greedy bitch, inviting him onto her talk show only to start grilling him about his methods. Later she even sets up a phony kidnapping so she can film him beating up a bunch of guys, then seduce him and reveal his identity live on TV.

The main villains of the film are a pedophile ring who are kidnapping local kids and selling them off to child molesters. Not your usual antagonists, really. I always thought that pedophile rings were a loose confederation of creepy old men with bad facial hair, swapping jpgs in the dark corners of the internet. According to this film however, they're a thoroughly organised criminal enterprise, operating out of abandoned buildings patrolled by swarms of armed guards. They are skilled too, the first time Mirageman tries to take them on he gets his ass thoroughly kicked, and it's only an undercover cop that stops him from getting a bullet in the head. This idea of highly-organised pedophiles syndicates is both incredibly stupid and a stroke of genius. I mean, pedophiles are like Nazis, pretty much everybody hates them. Fuck those guys.

This film was shot on a tiny budget, so the technical aspects are a little rough and a lot of the street scenes were shot guerilla-style. I liked it though, it added to the real-life, street-level approach to superheroism. As to be expected from Espinoza and Zaror, the fighting is really good. Lots of flashy flying kicks, no wires or CG, and when the hits connect it looks like they hurt. Probably because they did. Zaror barely says a word in the film, but manages to communicate a lot physically, such as expressing anger by kicking dudes in the head. I liked this one, and I'll be tracking down any more films from this dynamic duo (superhero reference).

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