Since the beginning, it seems that Deadpool was destined to be a disaster. The film first went into development back in 2004 but has remained in various stages of production hell. It’s easy to see why. Deadpool is a character who requires an R rating to be told right, and studios don’t like to gamble Superhero money on R rated films. But now, after more than a decade, we’re finally getting a uncut, undiluted Deadpool movie, and what a pleasant surprise to find it was worth the wait.
Deadpool is the story of Wade Wilson, (Ryan Reynolds, Buried) an ex-Special Forces soldier turned mercenary. He spends most of his time shaking down baddies for his bartender buddy Weasel (T.J. Miller of Silicon Valley). He finds new meaning in his life in a prostitute named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, Serenity). But instead of a happily ever after, Wade gets a body full of cancer, which is when he meets Ajax (Ed Skrein), a shady mutant who says, he can not only cure Wade’s cancer, he can give him super powers. Ajax’s treatment leaves Wade horribly deformed and with the uncanny ability to re-grow tissue at an incredible rate. And while this might all sound like the origins story for some superhero, Deadpool will be the first to tell you – he’s no hero.
If you gave a thirteen-year-old boy a stack of comic books, a rhyming dictionary of profanity, and an endless supply of Mountain Dew, Deadpool is probably close to what they’d come up with. The humor is sophomoric and silly, the action is over the top and violent, and somehow, it all works shockingly well. The script from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the duo that penned Zombieland, strikes a balance between gallows humor and blood and guts, playing the film out like a looney tunes cartoon except the hits actually hurt.
Deadpool keeps its story refreshingly intimate. The film takes place in the X-Men universe, but the focus is kept almost entirely on Deadpool. The X-Men presence is limited to the shiny steel man Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and the epically named Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who show up to try to convince Deadpool to stop killing people and take up the superhero life. If you’re wondering where the rest of the X-Men are, so is Deadpool who mentions that it’s almost like the studio couldn’t afford the rest of them. That’s not to say that Deadpool looks cheap by any means, the action is solid and the effects are first rate, but the aircraft carrier in this film is decommissioned and crumbling, not flying through the air.
Without any world building to do, first-time director Tim Miller gets to do some actually character building and Ryan Reynolds finally gets the chance to shine in the role he was seemingly born to play. There’s something giddily amusing about taking a beautiful actor and giving him a hideous face. Deadpool gets solid comedic mileage out of Wade’s mangled face, but it’s a key plot and character point as well. Wade refuses to reunite with his girlfriend until he can figure out a way to fix his face, only coming out of the shadows once Ajax kidnaps her to draw him out. Deadpool’s tiny budget has given it something all the latest superhero blockbusters have lacked: a genuine emotional core.
Which is a pretty remarkable feat considering that Deadpool stars a mentally unstable psychopath who wears a mask for more than half the film. Not to mention the fact that Deadpool seems to somehow know he’s in a movie, constantly winking to the audience, and at one point actually redirecting the camera away from a bit of carnage he deems to violent for us to see. That we can be made to care about a masked character’s journey within a film that insists on reminding us that it’s a film, is a compliment to the writing, direction, and acting involved.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Deadpool is probably a little too pleased with its own cleverness, but given how well the film works after years in production hell, it’s hard to feel like the smugness isn’t just a little bit justified. It’s certainly not for everybody, but if rude jokes and unabashed violence sound even remotely like your idea of a good time, you can’t do much better than Deadpool.