I love it when a plan comes together and Ryan Reynolds’ plan to bring a proper version of Deadpool to moviegoers pans out in a big and raunchy way. It marks the actor’s fourth appearance in a comic book based picture after Blade: Trinity, Green Lantern, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where he also played Mr. Pool. Those entries weren’t too memorable. The fourth time turns out to be the charm.
What sets Deadpool apart from Spideys and Avengers and Caped Crusaders is the level of R rated debauchery, amped up violence, and profanity not often found in the Marvel or DC universes. Yes, we see it in Iron Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy, but not quite like this. The alter ego here is Wade Wilson, a former special forces operative who makes his dough as a mercenary. He doesn’t see himself as a good guy and he isn’t, though most of the jobs he takes have whiffs of virtue. Early on, Wade fools around and falls in love with escort Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and life is going well until a dire cancer diagnosis. Choosing to undergo experimental treatment for his illness, he leaves his girl and soon figures out that he’s been duped and is subjected to torturous experiments by a shadowy group led by British mutant Ajax (Ed Skrein). It leaves our antihero badly deformed and indestructible, hence the need for his superhero costume. Additionally, it leaves him pining for sweet and bloody revenge. Deadpool is soon joined in his journey by two X-Men – Colussus (Stefan Kapicic) and the entertaingly named Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).
Along the way, Reynolds frequently breaks the fourth wall and talks to us in the audience. The screenplay fluctuates between his origin story and the here and now. It is a pic with its wicked tongue planted in its cheek. Much of what comes out of his mouth is hilarious and un-PC in a genre where a sense of sameness (see Avengers: Age of Ultron) has creeped in. Even the lead performer’s previous failures in spandex are slyly addressed. From the 80s inspired synth score coupled with Wham! and Salt n Pepa to a sex scene montage that shows our lead lovers freaky holiday progression, Deadpool isn’t afraid to be way out there. The gamble usually pays off.
Truth be told, Skrein’s villain and sidekick (Gina Carano) are forgettable. And there is the occasional joke that falls flat. Most, however, land. Reynolds has been working hard to get this character his own explicit feature for some time and it’s clear that he and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and first time director Tim Miller have their hearts in the proceedings. For an actor whose performances are a mixed bag, Reynolds’ sarcastic wit is absolutely perfect for this part, similar to what we’ve seen with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Pratt in their franchises.
Deadpool shakes up the comic book worlds we are now accustomed to seeing every three months or so and gives Mr. Reynolds some nice retribution on screen and in a genre where his previous efforts weren’t too fun. This one is tremendous fun.
***1/2 (out of four)