Movie Review: 'Deadpool' (2016)

Ryan Reynolds’ comeback vehicle features a script armed to the teeth with non-stop zingers, a unique timeline and a decent supply of action sequences. The long-awaited “Deadpool” movie is everything you probably went in expecting as the sharp-tongued superhero makes his solo film debut as advertised, in splashy and derisive fashion.

Director Tim Miller’s adaptation marks the first time its titular character has been seen in the Marvel movie universe since “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, where Reynolds also played the role. That outing’s caveat was that he was barely seen and had no speaking lines, as the usually loquacious character had been muted by the film’s villain. Seven years later, Reynolds’ passion project has come to fruition with its star, omnipresent and never wanting for words.

Our story begins with the soft sounds of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning”, an opening taste of the movie’s nostalgic wistfulness. Before long Deadpool is leaping into action, beating up baddies and breaking the fourth wall, while he goes at it. Early on Miller makes the intent of his mission clear: this is not going to be your standard superhero affair.

As the timeline swerves between past and present, it reveals how former Special Forces operative Wade Wilson (Reynolds) went from a wise-cracking motor mouth mercenary, to a wise-cracking motor mouth superhero. 

Through flashbacks we learn that Wade’s life as a romantic cynic was forever changed when he met Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), the female version of himself minus the combat skills. As with most things in Wade’s life, the good is soon followed by the bad and shortly after he finds happiness with her, he is diagnosed with cancer. Desperate to stay alive for the woman he loves, he subjects himself to a grueling experimental program in the hopes it can cure him.

Alas, things do not go as planned when he is purposefully and catastrophically disfigured by the sadistic doctor (Ed Skrein) running the program, leading Wade to put off a reunion with his beloved to first embark on a quest for payback. As it turns out, the experiment is not a complete loss for the sarcastic W^2. He acquires rapid healing powers (theoretical immortality), and adopts Deadpool as his avenger moniker. Thus his journey begins - to wreak vengeance and make peace with his new physical form.

Marvel's latest R-rated venture rides high on the waves generated by its identically rated predecessors, chiefly Matthew Vaughn’s brilliant “Kick-Ass” and James Gunn’s sensational “Super.” All share a reliance on cutting satire, dark humor, and a strong proclivity for the art of double entrendes that have produced a subgenre of subversive superhero movies.

Of the three, “Deadpool” is the most outrageous, attempting to color outside of even R-rated lines. It endeavors to ramp up its "restricted" factor by ratcheting up the graphic intensity of its dialogue, and it’s here the movie first runs out of momentum. As it goes overboard in its attempts to shock the audience by incorporating some humor that is simply in poor taste.

For instance, Wade and Vanessa’s tragic and traumatic childhood backstories are played for giggles when what they are saying is no laughing matter. Then there is the valiant attempt to finally present the under-seen plight of the physically augmented, only to have their rare representative suffer one verbal insult after another for his appearance. How that helps those suffering with self-esteem issues or encourages the public’s sensitivity, is anyone’s guess.

In 2016 shock is a difficult feat to achieve and in a lot of ways “Deadpool’s” attempts are hard to accept as genuine when it says so much, and shows so little. When it decides to visualize something “daring," it is in a disturbing scene of sexual congress.

Imagine for a moment, if the gender roles were reversed and a woman was shown crying and saying “no” while a man encouraged her to “go with it,” forcing himself on her without her fully vocalized consent? There would be a justly righteous uproar.

In “Deadpool," Wade is shown being coerced into a practice he expresses clear physical discomfort in (to the point of tears) and it is played for laughs. If there has been a backlash, it’s been impossible to hear over the deafening praise for the movie.

Pushing these serious issues aside, “Deadpool” has its good points, though it is a mixed bag. It offers a refreshing spin on the superhero genre that will undoubtedly awaken those who have fallen into a superhero slumber. Breaking the fourth wall, and every other archetypal narrative visage, it takes place in an entirely separate universe from its peers. It exists in a dimension where the Marvel movies are known to be movies, but their mythology is weaved in, and treated as reality. It is a film that’s wickedly salty dialogue is highly reminiscent of “Wolf of Wall Street,” while sporting a goofiness that falls somewhere between “Anchorman” and “The Mask.”

“Deadpool” knows you know it is a movie and presumes you are familiar with the behind-the-scenes scuttle that occurred during its making. If you are, you will find the “insider” digs amusing, admire its openness, and wonder how they got away with saying it all. When it throttles that jugular “Deadpool” is at its most audacious.

Of course the movie’s greatest asset is its star, Ryan Reynolds. It is a role that spells career redemption for Reynolds, proving his previous foray into superhero status (the iil-advised “Green Lantern”) was not a disaster due to any fault of his own. Reynolds' is a great actor, who is equally adept at comedy and drama, and in “Deadpool” he finally gets to prove that, once and for all. Rating: 6.5/10