Deadpool is the first superhero movie that has placed real faith in Ryan Reynolds, after the actor whiffed in Blade: Trinity, X-Men Origins, Paper Man and Green Lantern. The result is a film that is crass, violent, sexually explicit, obsessively self referential—and more fun than a stick of dynamite.
From the opening credits it's funny, action packed and smart. In giving its star the reins, director Tim Miller has created a movie that will make audiences feel like giving two hours of their lives and $10 per ticket is a good deal.
The movie opens with Deadpool explaining in voice over why he's trying to kill the occupants in a crashing car. It turns out Deadpool is Wade Wilson (Reynolds), a former goon for hire who falls in love with prostitute Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin), only to abandon her in a far-fetched attempt to rid himself of terminal cancer at a "workshop" run by a sadistic and disposable villain, Ajax (Ed Skrein).
Torturing his patient to the breaking point, Ajax ends up curing Wilson's cancer but horribly disfiguring him in the process, thus unleashing his latent healing powers and kicking off his quest for revenge.
Much of the film's driving force comes from the chemistry between Wilson and Carlysle. In a cinematic universe populated by mutants of the X-Men variety and full of outlandish violence, Wilson's and Carlysle's love feels real, like something you might want for yourself.
Elsewhere in superhero cinema, people with powers get away with destroying San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, destroying the fictional city of Metropolis, telepathic mass murder and using autonomous robots to commit mass murder—usually to further high-minded ideals or foil an insidious plot. By contrast, Deadpool steers closer to a straightforward revenge flick, and the body count is more a function of gangsters not giving its titular character what he wants. Violence can be shocking again because it's being committed against individuals (however anonymous) rather than cynically cashing in on the American public's fears of urban terrorism or domestic spying.
Sex and sexual humor play similar roles. Movie sex done wrong imbues characters with two-dimensional emotions, usually through fleeting sequences shot with an eye toward reinforcing the seriousness of the act. Carlysle and Wilson pork with glee—a reminder that sex can be fun and doesn't have to be a dour bond or shameful secret. The preponderance of dick jokes in this movie reminds us that even characters who are openly lecherous are more satisfying than those who treat a good shag like a curse or a plot-fulfilling achievement.
Deadpool's downfall is that it's a creature of its time and place. Drop it among the great films of any of the genres it flirts with and it won't crack the top five. Look at it another way, and Deadpool is great satire. Comic book-based movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man offered snarky alternatives to played-out, top-tier franchises likeself-serious Batman reboots, self-consciously rich The Avengers and the often sanctimonious X-Men. Deadpool takes a big risk by making another snarky movie with a hard-R rating. Fortunately for moviegoers exhausted by the never-ending parade of superhero movies, this gamble pays off.
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