DEADPOOL: THE MERCENARY WITH A MOUTH ALSO HAS HEART, WIT, SOUL AND ONE OF THE BIGGEST BOX OFFICE OPENINGS IMAGINABLE.
Professor X mutant Files:
Genre: Action /Adventure /Comedy /Romance / Comic Book /Sci-Fi
Rated: R / 15
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, TJ Miller, Morena Baccarin
Director: Tim Miller
20th Century Fox /Marvel
Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is an expert killer and efficient soldier for hire with a distinguished military record behind him. But this is something of a man-child with a heart of gold, despite the dark underworld he inhabits. And he falls sweetly and beautifully in love with the equally tough and funny Vanessa (Baccarin). All seems well.
But when Wade is diagnosed with incurable cancer, he undergoes experimental gene therapy to save his life. What he does not count on is the fact that he will be left with extreme healing abilities, verging on limitless and immortal regeneration.
The cost? His face: irreparably scarred. His freedom: always at stake. And his love and life as good as gone, as though he had died. Wade therefore sets out on a path of detection, discovery and brutal vengeance against the man who tortured him: a mutant mercenary named AJAX (Skrein).
And to preserve total secrecy and dignity, Wade adopts a new identity as DEADPOOL: the masked mercenary with attitude..
The term ‘critic proof’ is more apt than ever here. We know DEADPOOL has been a gigantic success and has broken records for a February opening. We also know that the feedback has been fairly positive across the board, from hardcore comic book disciples to the casual cinema goer. Crucially, the bar of expectation was fairly low here.
Yes, there was an almost decade long campaign to get this made. Yes, there are the usual trappings of shared universe tie-ins to a wider X MEN franchise. And this is basically just another origin story comic book hero movie, with more extreme beats punctuating familiar action staples. Plus: THE best ‘viral’ video campaign in years, from its leaked first footage as a promotional tool to win Fox’s distribution support, to recent campaigns for cancer awareness.
But nobody EXPECTED this level of SUCCESS. You may have WANTED DEADPOOL to do well. you may equally have NOT wanted it to perform at all (guilty as charged: sorry!). But the comparatively low budget, anarchic attitude and playful sense of genre subverting fun did not bode for some ultra serious, Nolan /Dark Knight-esque piece or attendant box office record breaking. Pass or fail: the movie seemed as laid back and cool as its eponymous hero in its pervading tone.
And so, I went in not so much with low expectations as NO expectations! Thought I would loathe it: ‘oh another comic book movie but with added smug pop culture gags‘. And, whilst the movie IS just that, I came out LOVING this. It is unpretentious yet clever; familiar yet somehow original; darkly cynical yet warmly romantic and optimistic. A movie that can be all things to all people, whilst knowing its limitations, preserving clarity in tone and never outstaying its welcome.
There are, of course, pop cultural references galore. And they are not all that funny. Yet ANOTHER movie where the hero impresses a girl by knowing about STAR WARS. NO! That does NOT work. Even if you look like RYAN REYNOLDS! But when they hit..boy do they hit. The sheer speed and power of Reynolds’ verbal gymnastics here are quite outstanding. This is a movie star at home and coming into their own, at last.
It’s like watching CHEVVY CHASE merged with HARRISON FORD and the BRUCE WILLIS of DIE HARD: apt for a movie that loves the 1980s. In the present day era of production line, dour and drab wallies crowned ‘movie star’ every five seconds, Reynolds is a breath of fresh air, but coated in the comforts of nostalgia. Masculine, clever and with perfect comic timing as well as a killer streak in the action scenes; this is a movie star deserving of that title. You’d be happy losing a girl to him (well, almost). In real life, he is married to the lovely BLAKE ‘Age of Adeline‘ LIVELY.
This is of course a movie that ‘breaks the fourth wall’ (ie it talks directly to the audience) and thereby invites a meta-textual interaction and consideration. Once again, that can be irritating and verge on the smug. Except here, both the character and actor and indeed the whole film have been underdogs of sorts for ages. Reynolds was let down by some seemingly sure hit films that bombed, badly (GREEN LANTERN; RIPD: neither as bad as made out but both epic fails). He was so close and so far at once, but the success of DEADPOOL, overnight, now means he can green-light anything. Again.
So the movie mirrors reality: art and life etc. You end up WANTING and WILLING the character AND the actor to win again, in tandem. The character is scarred and isolated but retains his heart and humo(u)r, just as the actor never gave up whilst Hollywood fortunes had left him without the anchor of a hit he deserved. And they win together.
You grow to love the movie more as it advances to dispel doubts as to the merits of its eponymous hero and determined star. It’s a one off phenomenon, though arguably has precedent in the reformation of Tony Stark in 2008’s IRON MAN echoing the real world career renaissance and associated joy for ROBERT DOWNEY JUNIOR. Matters are helped by the fact that is not trying to actually copy IRON MAN (a mistake that GREEN LANTERN arguably made with Reynolds as that particular hero back in 2011). Character AND tone all very much their ‘own thing’ here, at last.
The villains are a little drab but that to be frank is refreshing. Yes, we get an English baddie (‘Ajax’, played by Ed Skrein) but NOT some smugly polished Cumberbatch/Hiddleston clone. This could be an Eastenders character with superpowers and whilst that sounds unimaginative, it is in fact the first time I have seen something LIKE that. They could have opted for scenery chewing, RP accented fops; they go instead for a physical challenge to the hero who actually convinces in the fights and thereby presents a real threat.
Some of the trappings don’t work. TJ Miller’s sidekick character is just pointless. But that’s because you don’t need a comic relief character when your leading man is hilarious. The girlfriend (Vanessa, played by Morena Baccarin) is underused and reduced to a damsel in distress in the film’s climax. But she is so lovely, beautiful, funny and strong in her initial scenes that you can forgive the deficit.
Some of the jokes crossover from funny to nasty. And the motif of fear about how the public perceive disfigurement is arguably redundant in our thankfully more compassionate climate (the one good thing about ‘political correctness': we care and think about the impact of our words on others). This is not a period piece, whatever throwaway references they make to ‘timelines’. So the 1980s superficiality referenced by the script is just out of date. But that is cancelled out by the quite touchingly passionate romance at the centre of the movie and genuine motifs about friendship and embracing a community.
There is some mugging about budgets and the wider X MEN universe, when one wishes they’d just managed to blag some archive footage or something to truly integrate the franchises. But Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) genuinely inject a further sense of community, comedy and the promise of an expanded universe.
See what I did there? EVERY small problem or setback in this movie has a ‘but’. Weaknesses are simply overdone strengths and vice versa. Debit wiped out by instant credit. Patterns established, but in a welcome, warm and wonderful fashion. This is a competently crafted and well edited action movie with wit, heart, soul and charm, fronted by an actor at the peak of his powers.
It is by no means a substantial film and the comedy can verge on the puerile whilst the violence and imagery earn the ‘R’ rating. This is not for everyone and certainly not young kids, so much as later teenage boys. The novelty may well wear off, too (am in no rush to see this again). Reservations and minor drawbacks aside though,: DEADPOOL deserves its success and richly so.
You will be entertained at some level, be it erratically or consistently. This is a welcome addition to the genre, to the specific X MEN universe and to the cinematic landscape, balancing adult comedy and action with a kind of fairy-tale innocent sensibility not seen since the heyday of the early DIE HARDS, LETHAL WEAPONS, BEVERLY HILLS COPS and so on.
Nostalgia has never been so good. Ideal for Half Term amusement, quirky date nights and / or a laugh with your best buds. An uncomplicated and fun film that sets you up for a great few beverages down your local afterwards on a Saturday night.
I congratulate Mr. Reynolds and co on their successes and await the now inevitable sequel with great interest.
You will be shocked. You will be stunned. You will be moved. But above all: you should be entertained. 3.5 out of 5: CLEARED FOR DUTY.