Deadpool

***

Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

Deadpool
"For fans of the various franchises given nods and winks, and elbow nudges, and telegraphed air quotes by the Meta Merc, there’s a lot to like here."

There is a moment a little into Deadpool where the titular Merc With a Mouth asserts that this isn’t a regular Superhero story, it’s a love story. This is then compounded by a sequence where God’s Own Idiot, Wade Wilson - played to wince inducing levels of irreverence by Ryan Reynolds - engages in a crass game of verbal one upmanship with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) which leads to a date: cut to the pair framed in romantic embrace, until the camera pulls and twists back and they’re at an arcade playing skeeball. It’s in these little moments that Deadpool excels, bringing to mind the old theatrical tool of stichomythia - alternating lines featuring repetition and antithesis - allowing Reynolds to smirk his way through tortured witticisms and try hard insults with a cast that is mostly switched on and in time with the beats.

The very next montage is of Wade and Vanessa having gratuitous sex on all sorts of National Days, World Women’s Day turning the table on Reynolds with expectantly crass results. This is where the film falls down. It frequently takes two rounds at a joke. The quick and rapid jabs at the start are more satisfying than the big haymaker designed to knock out the audience, especially when the film decides that it needs to throw in a couple of egregious post-KO uppercuts to make sure the point has been hammered home, preferably through the living room wall in an 18 Wheeler emblazoned with a big “DICK JOKES” graphic.

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If this all reads as very negative, then it’s quite likely Deadpool isn’t your thing. Designed in the Nineties by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld (the latter famous for not being able to draw feet, instead being gifted with a incredible eye for belts and pouches), Deadpool is totally in your face, relentless, ignorant of your concerns as a viewer. Tim Miller’s take is incredibly relentless, with the jokes starting at the fourth wall breaking title credits over a visual gag filled freeze frame of an action sequence that the film meanders around as the core of its first half.

Sadly lumbered with the Origin Story schtick in order to re-write the awful mishandling of the Mr. Pool property in Wolverine: Origins, it does its best to remix the formula, with middling results. In the prime of his life, Wilson is diagnosed with aggressive late stage cancer and takes a chance on a program to make him a mutant. The grimy workshop is run by Ed Skrein’s Ajax, a forced mutation who gained super reactions and uncommon strength, but with the double-edged sword of becoming analgesic. Wilson’s torture at the hands of Ajax results in the unlocking of super-regenerative powers - and hideous deformations all across his body. Effectively immortal, clinically insane, Wilson returns to his old watering hole and gets insulted by his best buddy Weasel (TJ Miller on top wisecracking form). Taking inspiration from Weasel’s bet on Wilson’s life in the bar’s Dead Pool, Wade decides to become Captain Deadpool, and sets off to find Ajax and fix his face.

All of this is mixed in and around a high-octane action sequence that mixes car chases, bullet counting killing sprees, comedy pratfalls, and the introduction of C-List X-Men Colossus and and the preposterously named Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Tim Miller keeps up this sensory overload for the entirety of the film's thankfully terse one hour and 48 mins runtime, and between his judicious curation of Deadpool’s ADHD narration and Reynolds' relentless delivery of jokes, non sequiturs, physical comedy and knowing addresses to the audience, the whole affair is snappy and not quite as meandering as one might expect.

For fans of the various franchises given nods and winks, and elbow nudges, and telegraphed air quotes by the Meta Merc, there’s a lot to like here. Beyond the jokes and endless vulgarity, the plot is similar in scope to Ant Man, with the scale of the action being far smaller and all the better for it. Which isn’t to say the film isn’t bombastic. There is well choreographed and stylish action that has a unique sense of kineticism for the Marvel universe - Colossus gets a good workout from Gina Carerra’s Angel - and the valleys between the obvious thigh slappers are punctuated with subtler and smarter jokes and references for those that feel adrift in the sea of low brow hyuks.

Unfortunately, none of this really elevates the film out of the mire of its Origin Story trappings. As it strains against its framework, it bruises its veneer of brash irreverence. Being so concerned with being counterculture means that it comes off as less knowing and intricate than Kick Ass, and far less subversive and uncomfortable than Super. Hints of future installments and obligatory team ups seed the film with the worrying promise of a watered down return in later years, but the sheer audiovisual density of this experience means that in the moment, it’s okay to just laugh and grow fat.

Reviewed on: 12 Feb 2016
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After being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, Wade Wilson adopts the alter ego Deadpool and goes looking for revenge.
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Director: Tim Miller

Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, TJ Miller, Ed Skrein, Michael Benyaer, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand

Year: 2016

Runtime: 108 minutes

Country: US, Canada

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