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Deadpool 2 (2018)

DIRECTOR: David Leitch

CAST: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Morena Baccarin, Brianna Hildebrand, T.J. Miller, Stefan Kapicic, Julian Dennison, Terry Crews, Bill Skarsgard, Karan Soni, Shiori Kutsuna, Leslie Uggams, Rob Delaney, Eddie Marsan

REVIEW:

2016’s Deadpool was such a blast of kinetic, wildly irreverent R-rated fun that it was both inevitable that a sequel would be made, and that the same freshness level was unlikely to be recaptured.  True to expectations, Deadpool 2 serves up more of the same serviceably enough to be a fun, if overlong, time, but without quite the same pizzazz.  Even so, fans of The Merc With the Mouth are likely to enjoy his second big screen romp, if perhaps not quite as much as they did in 2016.

After a cold open involving Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) blowing himself up—a futile gesture, as his superpowers render him virtually incapable of dying whether he wants to or not—we flashback to what led up to this point.  After tragedy befalls Wade and his lady love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a despondent Deadpool winds up on the doorstep of the X-Men mansion, where—after scooting around breaking things in Professor X’s wheelchair—he reluctantly accepts the offer to join the X-Men floated by old friend Colossus (Stefan Kapicic).  This leads to a confrontation with a volatile pyromaniac teen mutant, Russell (Julian Dennison), which leads to both Wade and Russell getting thrown into a top security prison for law-breaking muties.  The breakout comes with the “help” of the time-traveling Terminator-esque Cable (Josh Brolin in full bad-ass mode), who blasts his way through the prison gunning for Russell.  From there, after a couple Deadpool versus Cable skirmishes, Deadpool slaps together a team of superheroes (including Zazie Beetz, Terry Crews, and Bill Skarsgard) and sets off to both stop Cable from executing Russell, and stop Russell from committing the first act of the bad path that leads his future self to wind up on Cable’s hit list.

Deadpool 2 has a more substantial “story” than Deadpool, and that’s not always a good thing.  That the movie is not taking itself too seriously is made clear from the get-go, where it kicks off mocking Logan, then launches into a delightfully on-target parody of the opening credits of a James Bond movie (complete with an original song by Celine Dion), and there’s plenty of one-liners and gallows humor.  Later on, there’s a Basic Instinct homage, and as is to be expected the filmmakers don’t let it go unremarked upon that this is Josh Brolin’s second Marvel character of the year (the first being Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War).  The movie also sets gory fight scenes to such incongruous soundtracks as Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”, “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow”, “If I Could Turn Back Time”, “In Your Eyes”, “All Out Of Love”, and “Take On Me”.  Deadpool 2 doesn’t push the boundaries of raunchiness as much as the first movie, but it still warrants its R rating.  With previous director Tim Miller out due to “creative differences”, former stuntman David Leitch of John Wick and Atomic Blonde has taken the reins, and his influence shows in the kinetic, lavishly gory fight scenes that at times recall something out of Kill Bill (there’s also a direct John Wick reference).  As before, Deadpool is a movie character who knows he’s in a movie, and frequently breaks the fourth wall to comment disparagingly on aspects of the script being “lazy writing”.  But despite being cheerfully irreverent, Deadpool 2 has considerably more “serious scenes” than the first one (which wasn’t devoid of them), to an extent that’s sometimes more than is preferable.  The first movie had its share of “straight” moments too (mostly involving Wade being tortured in the mutant program and he and Vanessa dealing with his terminal cancer diagnosis), but Deadpool 2 has considerable down time between jokes, and the storyline between Wade and Russell veers toward the sappy without the wit that one might have expected to keep it from getting too bogged down.  The eventually revealed backstory explaining Cable’s mission to kill the young version of Russell due to future events also bears a strong resemblance to the plot of Looper.  The first movie had sappy moments, but it was savvy enough to poke fun at itself while doing it and lighten things up with a joke thrown into a “serious” scene.  Deadpool 2 spends too much of its screentime getting bogged down in crossing the line into too sappy/serious.

Ryan Reynolds (who is also credited as a co-writer along with returning Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick) is still perfectly-cast as Deadpool, rattling off one-liners with effortless flippancy and maintaining enough of a shred of dignity for his few more dramatic moments, even if the script here doesn’t quite give him the same rapid-fire avalanche of snappy material.  Also returning are Morena Baccarin as his true love (albeit in a reduced capacity), Stefan Kapicic’s Colossus, Brianna Hildebrand’s surly Negasonic Teenage Warhead (who’s been given a girlfriend, played by Shiori Kutsuna), T.J. Miller’s unhelpful sidekick Weasel, Leslie Uggam’s Blind Al, and Karan Soni’s hapless cab driver Dopinder, who wants to join in the action.  The most notable newcomers are Zazie Beetz’s supernaturally lucky Domino, who nicely provides a bad-ass action heroine contingent, and Josh Brolin as the Terminator-esque Cable.  Brolin is relegated to the grimly determined “straight man” opposite Reynolds, but he does a serviceable job of looking stoic and kicking lots of ass.  Julian Dennison’s rather annoying Russell doesn’t help alleviate the sappiness of he and Wade’s plotline.  Other smaller supporting roles include bits from Terry Crews and Bill Skarsgard (minus clown makeup), and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo by Brad Pitt that’s surely one of the most insubstantial two second appearances a star as big as Pitt is ever going to make.

Deadpool 2 leaves the door wide open both for Deadpool 3 and an X-Force spin-off, both of which are rumored to be in the works.  There’s cause for concern that that might be overdoing it.  Deadpool was a blast of gleefully irreverent fun.  Deadpool 2 certainly has its moments, but also does too much spinning its wheels and lacks the freshness and energy level.  Stretching this franchise out to a trilogy might be pushing it past its expiration date.  Deadpool is the kind of character who might be best in small doses; too much of him can get a little….too much, not to mention his brand of humor wearing thin when stretched across a couple movies, let alone three.  For now, however, it’s a serviceable, if less inspired, continuation of the cheeky irreverence of Deadpool, and provides a counterprogramming to more conventional comic book superhero flicks.

* * 1/2

 

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