Deadpool (2016)

Bad ass. Smart ass. Great ass.

At long last, Deadpool is dead no more as the Merc with a Mouth has finally made it to the big screen. Though, this was probably a long time coming, since a standalone Deadpool project has reportedly been in the works, hauled through production limbo kicking and screaming, for over a decade, with David S. Goyer, Blade: Trinity (2004), attached to write and direct at one point. Initially, the property belonged to New Line — you know, the guys who gave us the R-rated Blade (1998) franchise — before they handballed it over to 20th Century Fox in the mid-2000s. After a PG-13 version of the anti-hero appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), played by an impeccably cast Ryan Reynolds, Fox considered a Deadpool spin-off, with Reynolds reprising his role, though middling box-office revenue and fan criticism of the watered-down, katana-swinging mischief-maker put this project on the backburner.

However, in January of 2012 the tides shifted, when a three-minute computer generated test reel was produced — helmed by visual effects maestro Tim Miller, with Reynolds mo-capping and voicing the character — in an attempt to convince the heads over at Fox to move forward with the seemingly ‘dead in the water’ Deadpool movie, the footage staying true to the vision presented in the comic-books by creator Rob Liefeld. In the later part of 2014, the footage leaked online, Deadpool enthusiasts fully embracing the overly violent, self-referential take on the mischievous superhuman mercenary, this being the first time audiences really got to see the character the way originally intended. The CGI trial run was a major victory as it cut through a lot of red tape, convincing the studio to give the people what they wanted, an adults-only Deadpool picture; the footage — in which Deadpool takes out a car-load of adversaries while pulling off his trademark motor-mouth sarcasm — was so popular that part of it was recreated and actually features in the film’s opening. So thank you Internet fans, you’ve made a dream of mine (and countless others, I’m sure) come true, as the arduous fight to bring Deadpool to theaters is thankfully over.

'Did someone say chimichanga!?'
‘Did someone say chimichanga!?’

Intended to be the eighth installment in the X-Men film franchise (and oddly fitting into canon), this unorthodox origin story literally blasts off the comic-book panels and onto the screen with an intro credit sequence like no other — according to Deadpool, the film’s director is some ‘Overpaid Tool!’ From there on in, we meet former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), who, to cure his terminal cancer, volunteers to be subjected to a rouge experiment (and a whole lotta torture) — which takes place within the confides of a Weapon X facility — that leaves him horribly disfigured and with accelerated healing abilities — he’s kinda like Wolverine, only without the adamantium. Adopting the alter ego Deadpool — a name taken from a ‘dead pool’ list at Wade’s local bar, an undercover establishment where mercenaries would gamble on which patron would die next — and armed with his newly acquired regenerative powers, this unconventional, mentally unstable ‘mutant’ embarks on a vengeance campaign, determine to hunt down Ajax (Ed Skrien) — otherwise known as Francis — the architect of Deadpool’s transformation and the man responsible for destroying his life.

Firstly, I’m thrilled to report that fans can all rejoice knowing that this film is every bit as Deadpool as we hoped it would be. With a fractured narrative that seesaws back-and-forth through time, Deadpool’s cinematic incarnation is pacier than most and anything but predictable — though, had the story been told chronologically, the fatigued ‘origins’ nature may have weighed proceedings down. And while on the topic of structure, its nondescript revenge plotline does hinder its ingenuity — even if only marginally. Minor hiccups aside, Deadpool is a bona fide triumph, pushing the permitted boundaries at every given turn, subverting expectations while simultaneously adhering to them, its tone right on the money.

Equipped with his dark, twisted palatable sense of humor, the crimson commando literally breaks all the rules; he ridicules the ways in which Fox execs mishandled the character of Deadpool in the past (with hysterical results), takes the piss out of the X-Men (every gag hitting a bullseye), and pokes fun at everything from Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine to Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury, shooting out just the right verbal slayings (in terms of pop culture references) at the most tasteless of times, though nothing’s mean-spirited or overly offensive — at one point, (reflecting on the notion of possibly being made a super ‘hero’) Wilson requests to his captors, ‘Don’t make the super suit green. Or animated.’ clearly taking a stab at his poorly received Green Lantern (2011) stint, in particular the ridiculous computer-generated costume.

Now this guy brings new meaning to the term brass-balled.
Now this guy brings new meaning to the term brass-balled.

While Fox’s previous efforts to bring the outlandish wisecracker to the silver screen resulted in ridicule and anger — chiefly over Deadpool’s surgically shut mouth which, in turn, robbed him of his most lethal weapon … his chops — this more accurate portrayal sees Mr. Pool relentlessly filling silences with off-the-wall cracks, one-liners and comedic observations — a far better depiction of the renowned troublemaker. Here, not only does Deadpool edge words into every available niche but he constantly breaks the fourth wall (as he regularly does in the comics) and interacts with the audience — a sound reflection of modern times, perhaps — speaking to a generation of bloggers, YouTubers and fanboys as if one of them; a fanbase that knows the Marvelverse inside out (both the books and films). It often feels as though you’re watching a running commentary by a brazen, pop-savvy know-it-all, who’s blurting out things that normally wouldn’t or shouldn’t be said.

Seizing the opportunity to do right by the military trained ex-mercenary, Ryan Reynolds dons the iconic red-and-black, full body tactical suit with a twinkle in his eye, fulfilling a life-long dream — this is the role Reynolds (once Hollywood’s lovable goofball) was born to play. Reynolds is so innately Deadpool (looking and sounding the part), it’s difficult to note where one ends and the other begins, the duo so naturally infused, with the 39-year-old delivering such a physical and dynamic performance even under a mask or thick layer of burn-victim prosthetics — subtle CGI work on the face protector allowing sly nuances and cartoonish expressions to jump out.

A motley crew of side players join our morally flexible protagonist. Instilling the action-heavy narrative with its romantic backbone is vixen Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin), an ex-prostitute who connects with Wade over their shared flaws and rough childhood (but don’t be fooled, this gal’s no damsel in distress), while comedian T.J. Miller, Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), proves that he can go head-to-head with our red-suited trash-talker, infusing Weasel (Pool’s barkeep pal and weapon’s dealer) with the right amount of wit and zing — but this guy’s pretty useless in a fight and is always ‘looking out for number one!’

'Ah, screw it! Healing factor won't let me get drunk anyway!'
‘Ah, screw it! Healing factor won’t let me get drunk anyway!’

When in a tight spot, Deadpool calls upon lesser-known X-Men; we meet the angsty Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) — someone’s a Monster Magnet fan — a millennial whose ‘too cool for school’ attitude bounces excellently off Deadpool’s gleefully crass optimism, while the Russian metallic gargantuan Colossus (a fully CGI creation voiced by Stefan Kapičić) tries to teach the potty-mouthed vengeance-seeker a thing or two about being a ‘hero,’ this ‘buzz-kill’ eager to enroll Deadpool into Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Then there’s Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), Wilson’s confidant, housekeeper and roomie, a sightless senior whom Deadpool picked up on Craigslist and to top it all off, we’re given a cameo by Stan Lee to end all others.

Unfortunately, the flick’s villains are rather interchangeable and underdeveloped — a setback akin to most Marvel outings. Possessing heightened strength and agility Ajax (nicely played by Ed Skrein) is radically undefined; he’s a sadistic scientist with a resistance to pain and numbed human emotion — now this guy’s one complicated dude, a man I desperately wanted to learn more about. Who was he? Where did he come from? Who does/did he work for? The same can be said about his generic henchman (well, henchwoman) Angel Dust — played by former international mixed martial arts champion Gina Carano — a super-soldier whom (despite resembling a ‘less angry Rosie O’Donnell’ and chomping on matchsticks) I knew nothing about; these pedestrian baddies standing to be another slight bump in the road, however trivial this might seem.

With torrid sex scenes, body splatter, raw and brutal well-choreographed combat sequences (one of which features Reynold’s exchanging blows in the buff) and crude language, Deadpool firmly sets its sights on the R-rating — and wholly embraces it, too. And despite desperate pleas from a disgruntled teen, which initiated an online petition to make this film PG-13 (I don’t care if the trailers made you laugh, wait until you’re of-age, son), Deadpool caters to those wanting to bathe in a blood bath of absurdity while still dishing out those larger-than-life action beats we’ve all come to expect from tent-pole Marvel titles, with the gritty harshness overlaying a level of reality that wouldn’t otherwise be possible if this were a kid-friendly affair.

'Nailed it!'
‘Nailed it!’

Tim Miller, making his directorial debut, and co-screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick — both having penned the 2009 hit Zombieland (2009) — really stay true to the sardonic material, assembling a film that’s just as edgy — not afraid to ruffle any feathers — and over-the-top as its source (there’s mutilation and severed limbs aplenty with Wade’s disfigured face resembling that of a ‘roadmap to hell’). It’s a movie that’s sure to resonate with the masses and comic-book aficionados, one that’s brimming with Deadpoolian quirks, that (in my humble opinion) succeeds in being the undisputed champion of Marvel films — well, certainly those under the umbrella of Fox. And to cap it all, the playful song choices — from DMX’s ‘X Gon’ Give It To Ya’ to Chicago’s ‘You’re The Inspiration’ — have been ingeniously inserted, used to the story’s advantage to generate laughs, larks or even filter out some of the high-voltage violence. This one’s a real game-changer folks and a major step in the right direction for the genre as a whole, carving out an untapped pocket in the ‘interconnected’ cinematic superhero realm.

With self-proclaimed Deadpool fan Reynold’s serving as a producer (unhappy with the character’s treatment in the past), he’s making sure that Fox get it right this time. And guess what? They actually do as Miller and his team have thrown out the rulebook and crafted an irreverent, meta-Marvel-lous piece of pop art, quite frankly showcasing just how unabashedly fun Deadpool’s ‘big-screen’ life can be. So please everybody, let’s make this film a profitable one as I’m already anticipating the follow-up. Oh, and while you’re sure to find that mandatory Marvel movie post-credit scene, don’t expect to see an eye-patch wearing S.H.I.E.L.D. director, no siree — this just ain’t that kinda film!

4 / 5 – Recommended

Reviewed by S-Littner

Deadpool is released through 20th Century Fox Australia