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Kill Me Twice, Shame on Me  

Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds
20th Century Fox
 119 Minutes
Directed by: David Leitch
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin  
Deadpool 2

The cardinal unwritten rule of comic book superhero movies is that they receive a PG-13 rating, permissive enough to allow a goodly amount of violence and a rare four-letter word, but not foul-mouthed or gory (or, heaven forbid, sexy) enough to shut out a large percentage of their target audiences. But all rules are made to be broken, and 20th Century Fox, faced with a dwindling library of Marvel comic characters at their disposal, decided to take a chance in 2016 by releasing Deadpool, a frequently vulgar, often gory, and never reverent comic adventure that was a perfect match for its leading man, Ryan Reynolds. Of course, success begets sequels, and we now have Deadpool 2, largely more of the same, but with a few differences that don’t always work all that well.


Deadpool 2 is relieved of the script burden of having to lay out the origin of its hero for audiences unfamiliar with a somewhat obscure, secondary Marvel hero, and, instead, plunges right into the action, literally with a bang, as Deadpool is seen getting blown to bits in the film’s opening scene. Of course, for those familiar with the Deadpool character, being killed is only a temporary inconvenience, as he is practically immortal, with an ability to endlessly regenerate himself (the source of one of the film’s great sight gags).


After the dust settles from Deadpool’s original demise in the movie, he attempts to join the X-Men and is granted a sort of provisional trainee status. His first assignment is to try to restore order at an orphanage for mutants, where one of the orphans, Firefist (Julian Dennison), a boy with the ability to hurl fireballs, is creating a disturbance. Deadpool determines that the boy has been abused by the orphanage’s sinister headmaster (Eddie Marsan). When Deadpool takes the boy’s side, both he and the boy are subdued and he is restrained with a collar that dampens his powers, thus rendering him vulnerable, before being sent to a top security prison.


While Deadpool and Firefist pass the time away in prison, a half-robotic soldier from the future, Cable (Josh Brolin), comes looking for the pair with a ton of firepower and a tough attitude. He easily breaks into the prison, and, in the ensuing firefight, Deadpool is able to escape, but Cable continues his pursuit of Firefist, his real target. Firefist is later able to escape from a transport convoy taking him to a new prison, thanks to his newest friend, an even larger, more powerful mutant, Juggernaut. Firefist and Juggernaut head back to the orphanage, where Firefist is determined to kill the headmaster. Deadpool intercepts the pair and tries to keep the boy from throwing his life away.


While the first Deadpool movie almost never took itself seriously, this sequel tackles some more serious issues, some of them literally having to do with life or death. Of course, this is nothing new for Marvel superhero movies, which often manage to stir the audience’s emotions, but it feels somewhat out of place here, in a film in which Ryan Reynolds is firing off four-letter-word filled one-liners with reckless abandon. As a result, the serious scenes (the most emotional of which takes place literally before the opening credits) seem stuck in a bizarre form of limbo here. They are too serious to be simply a part of the running gag that surrounds most of the storyline, but they never really register emotionally the way this exact same storyline undoubtedly would if it took place in an X-Men movie. Finally, the movie’s last gag, which occurs during the closing credits, puts an entirely new spin on these more somber moments, one that, again, if it happened in an X-Men movie would have had the audience screaming foul, but which seems part of the entire comic vibe of the film here.


Other than these few, somewhat out-of-place serious scenes, the rest of Deadpool 2 is more of the same as went on in the original movie. In other words, expect lots of irreverent one-liners and asides directly to the audience, lots of meta jokes and spoofs of pop culture and other comic book movies, both Marvel and DC, some blink-and-you’ll-miss them cameos, and plenty of gory violence. How violent? Let’s put it this way: Deadpool’s weapons of choice are a pair of swords that are used to dismember and disembowel a wide variety of opponents.


Deadpool 2 was directed by David Leitch, a veteran stunt coordinator, who does a much better job in the action scenes than did Tim Miller, the director of the predecessor movie. Leitch previously directed John Wick and Atomic Blonde, both R-rated films with copious amounts of violence. Here, the violence is considerable, often graphic, but only gratuitous on those occasions in which some bit of business forms the basis for a joke. The result is a movie that, unless the audience is paying careful attention, has its carnage pass by as simply part of the scripted action. There is little brutality for the sake of mood-establishing brutality, as in Leitch’s earlier films, but, rather, brutality that either passes unnoticed or becomes part of Ryan Reynolds’ repartee.


And, frankly, that repartee is the main raison d’etre for Deadpool 2. Ryan Reynolds engages in a running commentary, either with the film’s other characters, himself, or the audience, with jokes flying out about every three seconds or so. In this movie, he receives a screenwriting credit, along with the duo of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who co-wrote the original movie. My guess is that little of Reynolds’ contribution to the script was ever committed to paper; instead, the one-liners seem invented on the spot. Fortunately for the film (and a large part of the film’s appeal), Reynolds’ comic instincts are quite good, and the ration of funny jokes to unfunny ones is pretty good. Unfortunately, pretty good also means that some of the gags fall flat, sometimes noticeably so (an unfunny joke that’s also in bad taste quite often leaves a bad taste in audience’s mouths).


There is lots of good comic material in Deadpool 2, probably more than in the first film, and Ryan Reynolds is even more self-assured here. But, at the same time, the film appears caught up in itself somewhat, going through plot motions simply as a vehicle on which to tack its jokes. In addition, neither Reynolds nor director Leitch quite get the hang of how to deal with the more serious material. They try to make light of these scenes and occasionally do, but their efforts often misfire as well. Still, a somewhat misfiring Deadpool 2 is still much funnier than most movies out there and still has the wow factor of doing something other superhero movies never even attempt. Deadpool 2 isn’t always on target, but Reynolds and company hit the mark well more than they miss.

In this clip, Ryan Reynolds goes out on his first mission as an X-Men trainee.

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Deadpool 2 (2018) on IMDb