By John Corrado
★★★ (out of 4)
Right from the ingenious opening credits, which announce the film as being produced by “asshats” and directed by “an overpaid tool,” as Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” ironically plays on the soundtrack, Deadpool sets itself up as both origin story of its title character and gleeful sendup of the usual superhero formula.
Already a beloved character from the cult classic comics, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) isn’t your typical superhero, but instead a bro who takes pleasure in slicing and dicing his way through the bad guys, with a profane sense of humour and all the maturity of a sex-obsessed teenaged boy.
The story is essentially made up of two set pieces, stitched together with a bunch of flashbacks that provide the story of our antihero, a former mercenary named Wade Wilson, who falls deeply in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), an equally tough woman who is his match. But when he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer, Wade is desperate to do anything that will buy him more time with Vanessa, and undergoes an experimental treatment that stops his cancer, but also leaves him physically disfigured and with newfound powers.
Assuming the alias of Deadpool, and determined to get revenge on the men responsible for drastically changing his life, the “merc with a mouth” sets out on a path of crime-fighting destruction, that will hopefully reunite him with his one true love. Joined by a pair of rogue mutants, including the moody Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and metal behemoth Colussus (Stefan Kapicic), the only fellow members of the X-Men team who seemingly aren’t bound by other film contracts, Deadpool completes his transformation into a sarcastic and indestructible crime fighter.
Although the plot itself somewhat ironically follows the beats of a typical origin story, Deadpool works because there is something deceptively simple and even genuine about Wade Wilson’s journey, which at its heart is essentially a love story. We are told time and again by Deadpool himself that this isn’t a typical superhero movie, as he literally narrates the story to us in several fourth-wall breaking moments, with countless meta references to confusing timelines and franchise possibilities. These stylistic choices and frequent instances of self-deprecating humour add a level of freshness to the film that makes things feel unpredictable and delightfully off kilter.
Ryan Reynolds is clearly having a blast in the title role, getting a chance to fully explore this character who was given a somewhat botched treatment in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The Canadian actor handles the action sequences like a true star, while letting loose with a barrage of cuss words and quippy one liners, in maybe the finest showcase for his innate abilities to be both sleazy and charming. Further comic relief arrives in the form of T.J. Miller as an underground bartender, Leslie Uggams as his blind elderly roommate, and Karan Soni as the cabbie who ends up driving him around.
The two big action sequences that begin and end the film are cleverly edited, kicking things off with a shootout on the freeway that counts down twelve remaining bullets, as our hero finds inventive ways to use them all for maximum impact. The ensuing blood splatter and dismemberments are quite gory, but almost to the point of feeling over the top, and even Monty Pythonesque. The film makes full use of its R-rating, both in terms of violence and crude humour, providing much needed proof to major studios that superhero blockbusters don’t have to be watered down or PG-13 in order to do well at the box office.
No, Deadpool’s not the type of hero that we are likely to see fighting alongside the Avengers or X-Men anytime soon, but it’s a lot of fun to hang out with him for a brisk and unapologetic 108 minutes. And as it turns out, Deadpool is exactly what we needed to keep this increasing onslaught of superhero films feeling fresh. This is a highly subversive, sometimes sophomoric, and incredibly entertaining superhero sendup that just doesn’t give a shit, and there’s something worth celebrating about that.