Deadpool 2 (2018)
He’s not coming alone.
Those that found Deadpool’s ‘takeover’ a bit too much last time around probably won’t appreciate the bigger, badder and ‘harder’ antics of Deadpool 2. And the rule-breaking badass is certainly at it again, this time releasing a topical yet humorous Eurovision announcement — Reynolds’ Merc with a Mouth voicing his outrage towards the international song contest for constantly snubbing Canada (his native country) — whilst hijacking elite English football club Manchester United, the costumed Wade Wilson also popping up in a FIFA World Cup commercial, shamelessly plugging his sequel wherever possible — unafraid of who or what he offends — DP doubling down on promotion to ensure that his movie doesn’t get ‘buried by Infinity War.’ But did we expect anything less, this is, after all, Deadpool’s MO!
With a Céline Dion ballad titled ‘Ashes’ working as a faux James Bond-type opener — the song’s music video featuring a stiletto-wearing Deadpool doing interpretive dance — a longer run-time and the introduction of the X-Force, Deadpool 2 doesn’t just feel bigger (as one of its taglines suggests), it is bigger, the movie a witty, ballsy, blood-soaked superhero satire that’s slightly edgier than its predecessor. Blazing at a rapid-fire pace, nothing is safe here, the subversive anti-hero gunning through goons while lampooning everything in his sights — we have multiple stabs at Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, shots at the DCEU, and even an uncomfortably hilarious nod to Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992), along with a handful of other obscurely uproarious visual quips and references.
Breaking the fourth-wall, the Big Red Jackass (played once-again by a charmingly unchecked Ryan Reynolds) instantly sets the irreverent tone; where the first film, a blatant hand-R actioner, was said to be a ‘love story,’ this filthy-minded follow-up is described as a ‘family film’ — but not in the way you might think! You see, Deadpool 2 is not so much a movie for the whole family to enjoy (definitely leave the kids at home for this one), but rather a tale about the importance of family, Marvel’s wise-cracking wildcard probably having spent way too much time with Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto — someone’s gettin’ ‘soft!’
Directed by new helmer David Leitch, aka One of the Two Guys Who Killed John Wick’s Dog, the film opens two-or-so years after the first flick, with Wade Wilson/ Deadpool basically one upping Wolverine’s heroic send-off in 2017’s Logan. Before the credits even roll, we see Deadpool strike a cheesecake pose on a bunch of gasoline barrels, then flick a cigarette into one of the drums, blowing himself to smithereens and joining his pal Logan in the next life. We then wind the clock back to several weeks earlier, where we see the cancer-stricken mischief-maker slicing and dicing his way through the criminal underworld and the Yakuza in a bloody montage set to Dolly Parton’s ‘Nine to Five.’ But Wade wasn’t kidding when he said that this was a family film, as we later learn that Mr. Pool is thinking about starting a family of his own with his wildcat girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) — here comes Dadpool, God help us. Alas, things don’t really go according to plan for the masked miscreant as Deadpool experiences a sudden tragedy that drains his desire for living, Pooly-D subsequently snorting a huge amount of cocaine before blowing himself to bits.
That brings us back to where we started, with Deadpool’s goody two-shoes pal Colossus (the metallic CGI hulk, voiced by Stefan Kapičić) finding his scattered remains then hauling them back to Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, where the Regenerating Degenerate does a T-1000, thanks to his super-human healing abilities. While there, Wade trades blows with Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who’s gotten herself a cute Tokyo-styled girlfriend, Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna), whilst dicking around the mansion, Colossus eventually offering the mercenary another chance to join the X-Men. His first mission as an X-Men trainee (as everyone keeps reminding him) doesn’t go so well, Deadpool getting into hot water while trying to rescue an emotionally unstable young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison), who calls himself Firefist for obvious reasons. The short of it is that Deadpool and the ‘plus size’ kid wind up being restrained by collars that pacify their powers, and are then shipped off to a high-tech prison for mutants known as the Ice Box.
Here’s where the screenplay, written by Reynolds and returning scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, starts to get all mushy as Rusty begins to see Deadpool as a kind of surrogate father. Entre Josh Brolin’s Nathan Summers/ Cable, a time-traveling cybernetic mutant soldier — sorta like the Terminator — who returns to the present to kill Russell, which, in turn, will prevent the death of his wife and child in the future. And so, Deadpool decides to atone for his past mistakes by attempting to save the boy, forming a super-duper gender-neutral group he dubs X-Force.
Where 2016’s Deadpool broke the mold for superhero action films, this sequel pretty much delivers more of the same, only upping the ante; so, Deadpool’s second coming doesn’t come off feeling quite as innovative. Although early-production drama made headlines some years back — with initial director Tim Miller departing from the project after reportedly butting heads with Reynolds — DP2 doesn’t really suffer for it, even if the film is a bit scrappy and scattershot. Firing on all cylinders, filmmaker David Leitch — the dude responsible for that kick-ass staircase sequence in Atomic Blonde (2017) — keeps the grittiness of the original whilst maintaining its dark and deranged tone and balls-to-the-wall action, never stopping or slowing down to give audiences a breather, screenwriters possibly overstuffing the narrative due to criticisms made about the first film’s light plot. Sorta like a loaded cinematic burrito, Reynolds and Co. throw everything they can at the screen, unphased whether any of it will stick; from Marvel’s Hawkeye to The Winter Soldier, dubstep music, Disney’s Frozen (2013) and even fanny packs, nothing is spared.
With that in mind, our self-loathing protagonist often criticizes his own movie for its ‘lazy writing,’ which, at times, I can certainly agree with (umm … Terminator 2: Judgment Day anyone?), but kudos to the team for, at least, pushing the boundaries when it comes to self-referential/ meta gags. Moreover, Deadpool 2 feels relatively low-key and personal for a film of this ilk, which is a good thing, chiefly when compared to other superhero joints (so, no earth-shattering, end-of-the-world stuff here), this sequel very character-focused and surprisingly warm.
Now, let’s take a moment to talk about those characters created by Rob Liefeld, the X-Force, a rag-tag crew of misfits and aliens who only have small parts but end up stealing the show. It was fun seeing Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgård, play Zeitgeist, a skater-type dude who can spit acid, and Terry Crews, The Expendables (2010), portray Bedlam, a mutant that can manipulate nearby electrical fields with his mind. Then we have Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), a bioengineered trooper from a another planet, the Vanisher (who is literally invisible), and the runaway star of Deadpool 2, the mustached everyman Peter (Rob Delaney), God bless him, a lovable guy with no superhuman abilities whatsoever, yet still wants to help out. The standout, however, has to be Zazie Beetz’s sassy Domino, whose mutant power happens to be good fortune, which Deadpool claims is ‘uncinematic’ just as the coolest sequence of the movie plays out, her action beats unfolding like big-budget Rube Goldberg-type mechanics. Ironic, huh.
Turning to performances, Ryan Reynolds’ lovable lunacy anchors proceedings, Deadpool (who’s just as cocky and charismatic) beginning to exhibit some of his naughty pansexual traits, while the returning cast bounce well off the potty-mouthed prankster; Leslie Uggams reprises her role as Blind Al, as does Karan Soni as Deadpool’s cheery taxi driver Dopinder, who dreams of becoming a crime-fighting superhero, and then there’s T.J. Miller’s Weasel, who hasn’t been cut despite ongoing controversy. The story, however, sidelines some of these guys to make way for a host of fresh faces.
Of the newcomers, Josh Brolin, who we recently saw as the Big Bad Purple Dude in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War (2018), probably fares best. Donning a comic-accurate costume and CGI robotic arm, the 50-year-old actor oozes with menace as grizzled, hard-nosed warrior Cable, who packs some cool hi-tech heat. Fueled by anger and loss, Brolin aces all aspects of part, as well as the physicality, the mean, lean, fighting machine showcasing genuine pathos and depth, his performance counterbalancing some of the flick’s sillier moments. On the flipside, breakout star of Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) Julian Dennison nails all of the comedy but struggles to sell his character’s rage and resentment, Russell, aka Firefist, a deeply wounded kid with a burning thirst for vengeance, the New Zealand-born Dennison nowhere near as threatening as he ought to be. Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for a cheeky blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cameo by superstar Brad Pitt, who was originally in talks to play Cable but pulled out due to scheduling conflicts.
The ideal antidote for all those billion-dollar superhero smackdowns, Deadpool 2 is crass and crude, carnage-laden entertainment, despite missing that X-factor quality of its awesomesauce ancestor — which itself was a colossal-sized hit, the 2016 film still the highest-grossing R-rated picture of all time (globally). Though, I doubt Deadpool 2 will receive the towering praise of its precursor, which went on to become the first live-action superhero romp to ever be nominated for a Golden Globe — well, two Globes actually! But, ey, crazier things have happened; I couldn’t imagine getting one Deadpool movie let alone two! Speaking of crazy, be sure to stick around for some side-splitting mid-credit scenes that’ll surely bring down the house, as Reynolds’ foul-mouthed superhero meddles with history via a time-traveling gizmo.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by S-Littner