Deadpool is just the swift kick to the junk the superhero genre – one that has taken itself entirely too seriously for far too long and gotten away with it – needs. Profane, hyper-violent, and never hesitant to take things a step or two beyond overkill, the film is an interesting and risky project for Fox as it releases on Valentine’s Day weekend. Hey, there’s a love story among the impaled bodies and hails of gunfire. Director Tim Miller and screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick admirably turn the screws on a genre that is overstuffed and has fallen into vanilla territory. It delicately balances mocking and celebrating the finer points while delivering a truly original anti-hero. Deadpool is about to make life difficult for seemingly self-serious entries later this year.
Ryan Reynolds stars as Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces operative turned mercenary for hire. He works for a shady group that operates out of a bar tended to by Weasel (Miller), who runs a “dead pool” that helpfully provides odds of death for each mercenary. Wilson’s life takes a dramatic turn when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. All seems lost until he is approached by an associate of Ajax (Skrein), who claims his cancer can be cured with alternative medicine. As it turns out, he becomes a guinea pig for Ajax’s sadistic “treatments,” which inadvertently give him superhuman healing powers. After busting out of Ajax’s facility and taking on the moniker of Deadpool, Wilson seeks revenge on Ajax while attempting to rekindle his romance with long-term girlfriend Vanessa (Baccarin), who believes he’s dead.
Reese and Wernick make the most of scripting Marvel’s first and only R-rated venture. Brimming with F-bombs, graphic violence, and a seething mean streak, Deadpool pulls no punches in its efforts to be an edgy breath of fresh air. The downside is that the script is sometimes excessively talky and more than a few jokes fall flat. However, Miller exudes confidence in his direction, delivering multiple brilliantly-executed action set-pieces that are just the right amount of ridiculous. The fourth-wall breaking and self-awareness is effective, especially in the context of the asynchronous storytelling.
Reynolds, tasked with carrying the film on his shoulders, is up to the challenge. He somehow pulls off the impossible by making us care about an unlikable, motor-mouthed wise-ass who’s struck down with horrible luck. Ed Skrein excels in the slimy villain role, complete with the British accent that the film’s opening credits lovingly tease. Morena Baccarin is well-cast as the foil, awestruck not only that Wilson is alive, but of the craziness constantly unfolding around her. T.J. Miller provides a good number of laughs as the typical bar buddy, this time brutally honest about Wilson’s post-treatment appearance and plans for revenge.
As a much needed correction for a genre in desperate need of a jolt, Deadpool succeeds. It makes good on its promise of being off-kilter, off-color, and, well, out there. Miller and his team make this insane concoction work, right down to the roast of the stereotypical superhero jump from a great height. High art it is not, but there’s a method to the madness that commands respect. It’s also the most demented Valentine’s Day weekend release ever. Godspeed to those that don’t know what they’re in for.
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Length: 108 Minutes
Rating: R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity.
Theatrical Release: February 12, 2016
Directed by: Tim Miller
Written by: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick. Based upon the character created by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza.
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Gina Carano, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller