Ryan Reynolds gets the full-throttle wisecracking showcase he deserves in this scabrously funny origin story. Read on for our full Deadpool film review.
At this point, a movie studio would have to torch its headquarters, donate its merchandising revenues to charity, and produce a seven-hour art film performed in Ukrainian sign language to do something that truly qualified as a subversive gesture. Until then, viewers should gladly submit to the gleefully self-skewering pleasures of “Deadpool,” a scabrously funny big-screen showcase for the snarkiest of Marvel’s comic-book creations — a disfigured and disreputable mercenary who likes to crack wise, bust heads and generally lay waste to the idea that he’s anyone’s hero. As a vehicle for the impudent comic stylings of Ryan Reynolds, this cheerfully demented origin story is many, many cuts above “Green Lantern,” and as a sly demolition job on the superhero movie, it sure as hell beats “Kick-Ass.” And given the resurgence of fanboy interest following a well-received trailer at last year’s Comic-Con (plus the benefit of Imax showings), “Deadpool” should show plenty of life at the box office, especially if its well-earned R rating functions less as kiss of death than as badge of honor.
Fast, ferocious and inevitably a bit too pleased with its own cleverness, this Fox-produced offshoot of the “X-Men” series nevertheless can’t help but feel like a nasty, nose-thumbing tonic next to the shinier delegations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as represented by Disney’s “Avengers” franchise (and its various subfranchises) and Sony’s not-so-amazing “Spider-Man” movies. Better still, “Deadpool” knows exactly how to use Reynolds, an actor whose smooth leading-man good looks have long disguised one of the sharpest funnyman sensibilities in the business, as fans of “The Proposal,” “Definitely, Maybe” and the underrated “Just Friends” can attest.
It’s not the kind of star profile that immediately screams “blockbuster” (that’s a compliment), and admittedly, Reynolds’ peripheral first appearance as Deadpool, in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009), offered little hint of what he could really do with the role; happily, this wholesale reboot seems to inhabit a superior alternate reality where that dreadful earlier movie doesn’t exist. Deadpool does drop a few “X-Men” references here and there, and they’re crude and irreverent in the extreme, whether he’s joking about fondling Wolverine’s privates or dismissing Prof. Xavier as a creepy pedophile — all of which he offers up as evidence of his spectacular disinterest in contributing in any way to the ever-expanding glut of superhero movies.
If it all sounds terribly arch and juvenile, it is. It’s also startlingly effective: Somehow, through sheer timing, gusto and verve (and an assist from Julian Clarke’s deft editing), Reynolds gives all this self-referential potty talk a delirious comic momentum — reaching a peak when he’s trading quips with Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), the wizened, sightless old woman who functions as his caretaker, housekeeper and sparring partner. Additional punching bags turn up in the form of two X-Men allies: Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), basically an overgrown Arnold Schwarzenegger hood ornament, and sullen goth girl Ellie Phimister, aka Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), whose mutant powers include conjuring massive fireballs and sending angry tweets. The two of them exist mainly to keep Deadpool in line, and also to help him battle Ajax and his impossibly strong lieutenant, Angel Dust (Gina Carano).
But in the end, these supporting players are so much background noise — drowned out, on occasion, by the repetitive sounds of explosions, gunshots and body slams, and also by the constant wham (and Wham!) of the soundtrack. Baccarin, after getting to play Rosalind Russell to Reynolds’ Cary Grant early on, is ultimately treated in line with the “Hot Chick” moniker she’s given in the opening credits. Miller has fun staging all manner of vehicular and architectural chaos, but mostly stays out of the way of his script and his star. The movie exists entirely as a star vehicle for Reynolds, and perhaps its canniest stroke is the way it both conceals and demolishes his physical beauty — a small price to pay when an actor’s tongue is this gloriously sharp. “I look like a testicle with teeth,” Deadpool snarls. And as long as he’s around, you’ll have a ball.