Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Movie Review: 'Deadpool'

There’s been a lot of talk about how the new adaptation of Deadpool would work. Last time we saw the Merc with the Mouth on the big screen, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was…not good. And with the brutal violence, sex, swearing, and fourth-wall breaking the character is known for, fans were worried about how that would translate to the big screen. There was a boost of confidence when we found out it would be rated R, and the end result gives diehard Deadpool fans something celebrate.

Vulgar, foul, and filthy in the most delightful, ingenious way; soaked in blood, and straight up mean-spirited; Deadpool is also going to churn the stomachs of many casual viewers. From the very first frame, even the opening credits, it is abundantly clear that this is not your standard superhero joint. This is going to turn off more than a few people, but if you’re looking for a foul-mouthed, action-heavy spectacle—one made on a relatively modest budget, at least as far as superhero movies are concerned—with a surprisingly sweet, romantic streak, you will love the shit out of this movie.

When mercenary-with-a-heart-of-gold Wade Wilson’s (Ryan Reynolds) body is ravaged by cancer, he undergoes an experimental procedure that, while it does cure what ails him and gives him the ability to heal his wounds in the blink of an eye, leaves him horrifically scarred and a wee bit touched in the head—even more than he was before. When he embarks on a mission to exact revenge on the man who did this to him, Ajax (Ed Skrien), his prostitute former fiancĂ© Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) gets caught in the crossfire and he has to rescue her. By now villains really should know that pulling a stunt like this is just going to piss the hero off. Surely they could have chosen another path. There’s certainly more going on than this, but the main press is this simple narrative line.

Wade reluctantly enlists the help of a couple X-Men, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who naively hope to convince Wade to use his powers for good instead of leaving a trail of criminal corpses in his wake—they’re not asked to do too much, and it’s a bit of a waste of Colossus, again. Deadpool also has a couple of friends from the comics along for the ride, with foul-mouthed bartender Weasel (T.J. Miller) constantly betting on him to die while mocking his horrific appearance, and his saucy old, blind roommate, Al (Leslie Uggams), who, like most of the people in this movie, curses a blue streak. Though Ajax primarily relies on faceless goons who serve as canon fodder for Deadpool, he also a right hand, Angel Dust (former MMA champ Gina Carano). And that’s really it, the cast isn’t particularly large. A few others get a line or two here and there, but they’re little more than glorified extras.

Ryan Reynolds, long a champion of this movie and this character—he’s been one of the driving forces making Deadpool happen—has never been more engaging or charming. He brings his inherent likability and easy juvenile bearing to the role, and it’s easy to see how invested he is, compared to, say, a movie like Green Lantern, which Deadpool mocks at every opportunity. And director Tim Miller lets him run wild—the scenes with Miller are heavily improvised and they shoot insults and banter back and forth—and it’s a total blast.

Deadpool revels in vulgarity. Usually movies like this roll along for an act or so but eventually run out of steam and start rehashing. Not this one, however, as it is crude and crass and hilarious throughout, with the characters spouting some of the most inventive offensive, lewd, uncouth things you can’t even imagine. As obscene as it is, that it maintains this momentum may actually more impressive.

Admittedly, this shtick would probably get stale if it wasn’t interspersed with big action scenes. Instead of being hampered by a lower budget than what DC and Marvel are throwing at their movies—with an R-rating, this was never going to get that kind of cash—Deadpool makes excellent use of its resources. Even with crazy explosions and a battle on a dry-docked aircraft carrier, the action is raw and the fight scenes are more grounded than your typical superhero outing. There’s a lot of in-close action and hand-to-hand combat instead of characters swooping through the sky. It’s even self-deprecating and self-aware about the budget, as Deadpool quips to the camera that the studio could only afford to use two of the X-Men.

But the romantic streak also has a lot to do with tempering the crude, brutal aspects of Deadpool. Wade may be a mercenary and Vanessa may be a hooker, and there may be a raging, filthy sex montage, but there’s an underlying level of earnest sweetness below everything. For all the bravado and vulgarity and decapitated bodies (at one point he spells out Ajax’s real name in corpses), everything he does is ultimately because of love. This also adds a dimension that you don’t often find in superhero movies, and is yet another element that sets Deadpool apart.

Not necessarily a game changer, and certainly not for everyone, more than most comic book movies, Deadpool captures the spirit and feel of the source material—even the post-credits scene is a perfect troll (there are apparently two, though only one on the prints screened in advance). Witty, profane, and full of action, Deadpool is a nice breath of fresh air in what’s been a stale early going for 2016, and bodes well for the future of the character. [Grade: B+]

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