Director: Tsui Siu Ming
Starring: Yu Rong Guang, Tsui Siu Ming, Pasha Romani, Connie Khan
1987 was quite a year for Hong Kong action cinema. Sammo Hung released his magnum opus, 'Eastern Condors', Jackie Chan countered with his supreme sequel to 'Project A', then the two brothers reunited with third brother, Yuen Biao for 'Dragons Forever' which for them could be equated with The Beatles releasing Abbey Road (not as farfetched as it may sound). John Woo meanwhile, unleashed 'A Better Tomorrow 2' which contained no less than the most unbelievable finale in the annals of action cinema... whew! I thought I had seen all there was to offer from that year, so imagine my surprise when not too long ago I discovered this well hidden masterpiece which not only can stand alongside it's more celebrated brethren, but can contend for the title outright.
The strory: While accompanying a convoy of goods making it's way across the Silk Road, adventurer/photographer, Tong (Yu Rong Guang) finds his party ambushed by bandits. After defeating said bandits, Tong and his party are stunned to see over the horizon the vision of a beautiful woman. No one can explain the phenomona. The task is complete, but Tong cannot remove the vision from his mind and sets forth with his friend on a journey through Mongolia in the hopes of discovering that woman to be real.
Actor/Producer/Director Tsui Siu Ming took his ambitious show on the road, this being a Mainland China production. The results are often breathtakingly beautiful with sumptuous cinematography that nearly approaches the level of a David Lean production. But make no mistake, this is an action picture and the plentiful fights and stunts are simply among the best ever comitted to celluloid. No matter how many Hong Kong action films from the '80s I've seen over the years, I'll never get jaded to the miraculous stunts that populated them. This film is no exception and if anything amps up the quality of the stuntwork to a level little seen, even from this time period. As I stare in wonder and bewilderment at the spectacle, it makes me feel fortunate that such cinema was made before the horrid development of C.G.I. which as far as I'm concerned helped mark the death knell of such pictures.
The cast really give it their all as well. In one of his earliest roles, Yu Rong Guang commands the screen, already displaying the skill and charisma that would soon make him a star in Asia. Director Tsui cast himself as Tong's faithful sidekick, lending the role all the inheret goofiness and sincerity that's called for. He also put himself out their in the explosive finale by setting himself ablaze (compared to Ringo Lam who preferred to let his stars perform the deed). Despite my feeble attempt at research, I have no idea who Pasha Romani is and that's a shame. As the lovely 'vision' who turns out to be nothing short of a nightmare for our love smitten hero, Romani's portrayal of the evil, animalistic warrior queen steals the film. So viscious and so powerful is her portrayal that it is nothing short of terrifying. If anyone reading this review has any further info about ms. Romani that they wish to share here, I'd greatly appreciate it.
'Mirage' is the kind of movie that comes along only every so often. Though the drama does admittedly take the occasional misstep for the action/adventure fan, it is the complete picture; strong perfs, wonderful scenery, expert direction and constant jaw dropping fights and stunts. It's a damn shame that such an amazing work like this is to this day, still waiting for discovery.