The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

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Live Wire Reynolds

20th Century Fox
 108 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed byTim Miller 
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin

Ever since Tim Burton put his distinctive directorial stamp on Batman, a host of talented directors and writers have engaged in an ever-escalating battle to see which comic-book universe, Marvel or DC, can be the gloomiest and most angst ridden. As the superheroes have gotten more powerful (and the CGI effects that showcase them have gotten more spectacular), these heroes also seem to have less and less fun as they keep the world safe from an escalating series of seemingly unstoppable aliens and more mundane worldly criminals. It’s gotten to the stage where the audience can be forgiven for mistaking Christian Bale’s latest Batman film for a modern-day version of Hamlet.


But for every action, there is an equal yet opposite reaction, and, in this case, the reaction to Marvel’s Avengers overload is not exactly a superhero, but more of an antihero, a mercenary turned mutant named Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), who becomes the title character of Deadpool. Unlike most superheroes, Deadpool keeps a totally irreverent and politically incorrect sense of humor throughout an origin story that is as gruesome as they come in this genre. And, unlike most superhero films, Deadpool carries a hard R-rating, meaning that the jokes are laced with profanity and the fight scenes are filled with blood and gore.


The basic storyline of Deadpool is one of the oldest around, that of a horribly wronged man seeking revenge. In this case, Wilson is a wiseass, fast-talking mercenary, as quick with his mouth as he is adept with fists and guns (his nickname is the “Merc with a Mouth”). He’s got a gorgeous girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who just happens to be a hooker and shares his rather offbeat sense of humor as well as his bed. However, he’s also got severely advanced cancer in almost every single vital organ.


A mysterious stranger offers Wilson the hope of a cure through an experimental treatment. What Wilson discovers instead is that the treatment, instead of being a cancer cure, is intended to turn him into a superpowered mutant. The treating “physician” is himself a mutant named Ajax (Ed Skrein), who doubles as an arms dealer and hopes to sell Wilson and other test subjects to the highest bidder. Wilson is tortured and his face and body horribly disfigured, but he develops greater physical prowess than he had before and, in addition, the ability to heal rapidly from any form of injury, even the loss of limbs.


Wilson’s injuries have left him with the urge to get revenge against Ajax but have not dampened his sense of humor. He teams up with two of the X-Men, a grayish CGI version of the Incredible Hulk named Colossus and a sulking Goth teenager with the ability to unleash explosions, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). Together, they go after Ajax, who has his own sidekick, an Amazon named Angel Dust (Gina Carano). 


While Deadpool’s plot, which varies somewhat from his origin story in the comics, dates as far back as The Count of Monte Cristo, the film’s closest cinematic predecessor is Sam Raimi’s underrated Darkman, in which Liam Neeson was similarly disfigured and out for revenge. The key difference between the films, and indeed between Deadpool and any other film in the genre is its star, Ryan Reynolds, and his nonstop banter.


Reynolds is a very versatile actor, who, to his credit, has acquitted himself well in serious dramatic roles as well as standard action films. But the role of Deadpool allows him to display the comic talents he has rarely been given an opportunity to showcase in comedies, at least since his Van Wilder days. The quips are fast and furious here, and, even though Reynolds’ face is disguised under a mask (or in heavy post-injury makeup), his snarky tone and lightning pace make his lines and rejoinders effective.


Ironically, Reynolds owes this role, which could potentially define his career, to the creators of the Deadpool comic, who once had the character refer to himself as a “cross between Ryan Reynolds and a Shar-pei.”  That led to Reynolds being cast as an earlier, non-comic, villainous version of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Screenwriters David Benioff and Skip Woods wisely jettisoned that version of the character (whose mouth was actually sewn shut) and started over from scratch.


They also wisely jettisoned any pretense that they were making a serious film. Instead, Wilson breaks the fourth wall frequently, addressing the audience and poking fun at nearly everything and everyone, including Ryan Reynolds the actor (whom he introduces as “five-time Academy Award viewer, Ryan Reynolds in an eHarmony date with destiny”) and the Marvel Comics universe (he questions whether he’ll have to talk with James McAvoy or Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier, since the timelines are so confusing). Best of all are the opening credits, which list Reynolds himself as “God’s Perfect Idiot” and the director as “An Overpaid Tool.”


That tool happens to be Tim Miller, a visual effects artist making his feature film directorial debut here. Despite the fact that there are few obvious superpower effects, Miller uses his CGI well here, making the physical stuntwork (usually rendered in slow motion) and the often graphic gore much more stylish. Add to that a background score that includes Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” over the opening freeze-framed violent credits and Neil Sedaka’s “Calendar Girl” during a steamy sex scene, and the visuals fit right in with the movie’s completely irreverent mood.


Deadpool is a perfect example of the right actor in the right role at the right time. Reynolds has never really been an A-lister, having too many missteps like Green Lantern and his first appearance as Deadpool on his resume. After this, however, expect scripts to be rewritten to give him more opportunities to show off his lovably snarky side. Quite frankly, the humor in Deadpool does wear thin after a while, and the film would have worn out its welcome a lot earlier without Reynolds’ presence. As it is, actor and script combine to make the right super-antihero for our time. 

Read other reviews of Deadpool:


Deadpool (2016) on IMDb