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Deadpool (2016)

deadpoolDIRECTOR: Tim Miller

CAST: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic

REVIEW:

In a movie landscape oversaturated with ever more superhero movies, it’s hard to make them all stand out, and the fact that 99% of them all inevitably follow the same basic formula makes them start to seem generic and interchangeable after a while.  For those suffering from conventional superhero movie fatigue, Deadpool blows through the sameness like a wrecking ball.  While itself an adaptation of a popular Marvel Comics character, Deadpool, like the comic series, pokes merciless fun at the superhero genre, leaving no trope unskewered, while not completely abandoning what fans love about the genre in the first place.  A rare comic book movie to earn a well-deserved R rating, Deadpool will come as a shock to the system of those expecting something along the lines of Captain America (one suspects strait-laced do-gooder Steve Rogers would not approve of Mr. Wade W. Wilson), and it is decidedly a comic book movie parents considering attending with their children should avoid like the plague.  But for those not easily offended, Deadpool‘s raunchy comedy and high-octane graphic violence may come like a breath of fresh air.

We jump straight into action, with the title character’s origin story gradually unfolding bits and pieces at a time through scattered flashbacks.  Wade W. Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), an unhinged and violence-prone former special forces operative turned mercenary for hire, has a soft spot for the weak and vulnerable, and is enough of a big softie to fall head over heels in love with stripper and waitress Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), largely because she proves his match when it comes to nerdy trivia and voracious and kinky sexual appetites.  But Wade and Vanessa’s domestic bliss comes crashing down when he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer.  In desperation, Wade ill-advisedly turns to a sinister “government” program led by Ajax (Ed Skrein), who subjects Wade to brutal experimentation which cures his cancer and grants him superhuman strength, reflexes, and healing abilities granting him virtual indestructibility, but at the cost of leaving him hideously disfigured.  Wade isn’t happy about losing his good looks, and sets out on a warpath against Ajax and his super-strong female henchwoman Angel (Gina Carano), leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.  Meanwhile, Wade’s homicidal rampage doesn’t sit well with the X-Men, who dispatch the hulking Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and his teenage sidekick, the oddly-named Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), to rein him in, which needless to say is easier said than done.

Whittled down to its essence, Deadpool‘s storyline is generic and straightforward.  It’s a fairly standard mutant origin story, and it’s hardly a surprising twist when Ajax and Angel take Vanessa hostage just in time for the climactic battle.  It’s the approach taken by director Tim Miller, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and star Ryan Reynolds that sets it apart.  As in the comics, Deadpool is a movie character who knows he’s in a movie and frequently breaks the fourth wall, regularly pausing the action to make tongue-in-cheek asides to the audience.  When told he’s being taken to see Professor Xavier, he quips, “Stewart or McAvoy?”, then complains about the X-Men series’ convoluted alternate timelines.  At another point, he observes that Colossus and Negasonic are the only X-Men who ever appear, and remarks that the budget must not have been able to afford more X-Men.  Reynolds also gleefully pokes fun at two of his own previous roles, in the much-maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern.  While relating his backstory, he accidentally starts replaying a flashback we’ve already seen, then irritably fast forwards through it.  Profanity, sex, nudity, ultra-raunchy jokes, and violence that is graphic to a sometimes almost cartoonish extent all flow freely.  Not every joke lands, but more works than doesn’t work, and the one-liners and comic asides keep coming rapid-fire and relentless enough that the movie is never dull for long.  Deadpool might not be a 100% straight comedy, but it serves up more laughs than what can be found in some so-called comedies.  It’s also not clear if Deadpool is connected to any of the rest of Marvel’s “cinematic universe”.  The X-Men and Professor Xavier are prominently name-dropped, but the only “familiar face” who actually appears is Colossus, played here by Stefan Kapicic instead of Daniel Cudmore (who played the role in the X-Men series).  Actually, this version of Colossus is more comic-accurate, with his Russian accent retained and looking the spitting image of the comics character.  2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was hailed as doing something different with the comic book genre, but compared to DeadpoolGuardians played it safe and was downright conventional.  Nothing is above mockery here, and no one should mistake Deadpool as remotely appropriate for children just because it’s a “comic book movie”.

At the same time, while gleefully lampooning the superhero genre and its overused tropes (many of which are targets ripe for the picking), Deadpool doesn’t completely abandon it.  The action is high-octane and has a kinetic kick.  The romance between Wade and Vanessa, at its core, is played fairly straight, and the climactic battle plays out in relatively standard fashion.  Under all the raunchy humor, there’s a soft and gooey heart on display.  Ryan Reynolds’ opening narration calls the movie a “love story”, and as unlikely a description as that might seem, at its essence that’s what it turns out to be.  The cast and crew show a nice balance, letting the more serious moments play out straightforwardly enough to give the movie its emotional center while never going too long between jokes to let things get overbearingly sappy.

deadpool2Ryan Reynolds, a fan favorite who had long fought for the role, technically already played Deadpool once before, in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverinebut the less said about that movie and its bastardization of Deadpool, the better.  Between that and his other inauspicious ventures into comic book movie territory, including Green Lantern, Blade: Trinity, and R.I.P.D.some fans were perhaps understandably leery about the idea of Reynolds going anywhere near another comic book movie, but he has redeemed himself here.  Reynolds’ scant screentime in X-Men Origins gave a glimpse of his rightness for the role, and here he has finally gotten the chance to validate it.  Deadpool might not be the most challenging role (one could say it doesn’t demand much from Reynolds besides donning makeup and the costume, performing fight scenes, and being his usual smartass one liner-tossing self), but the character fits the actor like a glove; it’s as though the comic character has stepped straight off the page into the movie.  Deadpool is an anti-hero who can only be considered a “superhero” by a very loose definition of the word, and is glibly unconcerned about leaving death and destruction in his wake, but despite all the mayhem he nonchalantly wreaks everywhere he goes, Reynolds manages to make us grudgingly root for Wade to beat the bad guys (or the worse guys, at least), and get the girl.

No one else gets much to do.  Morena Baccarin is appealing as Deadpool’s love interest, while Ed Skrein is an adequate but not especially memorable villain and Gina Carano’s limited acting abilities aren’t taxed by a role that only requires her to look bad-ass and have a climactic smackdown with Colossus.  T.J. Miller provides an intentionally generic “comic relief sidekick” (he’s even listed as such in the tongue-in-cheek, self-mocking opening credits, which also simply refer to Morena Baccarin as “Hot Chick” and Ed Skrein as “British Villain”).

Deadpool will decidedly not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for fans of the character, or for others not easily discomfited by raunchy humor or over-the-top violence, it’s a blast of wildly over-the-top, hyperkinetic fun.  For broad-minded, adult fans of the comic book/superhero genre, Deadpool has kicked 2016 off with a bang.

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