DEADPOOL is exactly what it should be. It’s not big (by superhero standards) and it’s not clever but it’s lewd, violent and supremely self-aware, just like its titular scarlet-clad antihero.
Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) makes a dishonest living as a gun for hire, and is perfectly happy doing so until a terminal cancer diagnosis forces him to sign up for a shady medical experimentation programme designed to unlock latent mutant genes. Wade hopes his cancer will be cured so he can spend the rest of his life with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and the process does allow him to heal any wound, but it also leaves him scarred, angry and fully aware he’s in a superhero movie. Now Deadpool sets out to take revenge on his torturers and to tell a different kind of superhero story.
Reynolds is Deadpool. He can handle the physicality and motor-mouthed requirement of being a living adult cartoon character, but more unexpectedly he also makes Wade Wilson a vulnerable, passionate and tragic character. Much like Keira Knightley, who is name-checked in a gag, he has range. Deadpool the character may not be a fan of Reynolds the actor portraying him (they used a similar punchline in the video game he headlined a couple of years ago with regards to Nolan North) but this is the actor man who could conceivably bring this character to life in live-action. Hollywood rarely seems to know what to do with Reynolds and as such he has been stuck as the best thing in a long line of bad movies, but his passion and enthusiasm for projects like Deadpool and THE VOICES is obvious. Morena Baccarin gives as good as she gets as Vanessa, Wade’s sweary love of his life and TJ Miller deadpans with the best of them as sidekick Weasel. I really hope they give Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Briana Hildebrand) more to do in the X-Men universe as her surly teen attitude and explosive powers have interesting action potential.
Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have packed the screenplay to an inch of its life with great gags, usually at the expense of Hollywood heavyweights. In reference to Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic being the sole mutant heroes tasked with putting a leash on ‘Pool we have him quipping to camera “Almost like the studio couldn’t afford any more X-Men”; in another scene we find him glancing sorrowfully at a battered action figure of his previous insult of a screen incarnation in X-MEN ORIGINS:WOLVERINE. You have plenty of crude asides and rapid-fire cruel comebacks, but if there was one thing I wasn’t expecting from Deadpool it was Monty Python jokes. A skit that we come back to several times is essentially a re-jigged version of the iconic comedy troupe’s “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch with characters trying to one-up each other on bad life experiences and Deadpool’s insistence on carrying on fighting despite losing the use of his limbs reminds me of a certain Black Knight.
The film might eye-roll at most superhero movie conventions, Weasel commenting that Wade should go and talk to a shady guy in a bar simply because it might “advance the plot”; Deadpool gleefully spotting that Angel Dust (Gina Carano) is about to jump from a height and do a “superhero landing”. Despite this, the film still ends with a big scrap with the main baddie Ajax (Ed Skrein) in a monolithic scrapyard. The villains are probably the film’s weakest element, but Deadpool as a character doesn’t really need them – he’ll find someone to fight and annoy wherever he goes.
The film’s budgetary limitations are in many ways an advantage. It’s not peppered with excessive action, Deadpool admitting at one point “we didn’t have the budget for that” and he doesn’t sound sorry about this. The violent car chase seen in the trailer and test footage and a couple of smaller brawls are more than enough, and the no-frills plotting and pacing allows the movie to call it a day at a brisk 1 hr 48 minutes.
My biggest hope for Deadpool’s next outing is that he is allowed to be a bit more deranged. He’s entertainingly wacky and unconcerned about inappropriate behaviour in his solo debut, but you get very few indications of his schizophrenic nature. This is a balls-out and tonally fitting origin for Wade Wilson, but you can always make him madder and badder. SSP